Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Mon., Oct. 25, 1999

First Session

MONDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 272, Lbr. - Occupational Health & Safety Act: Observance -
Assure, Mr. R. MacKinnon 690
Res. 273, Health - Paramedics: Negotiations Fair - Urge,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 690
Res. 274, PC (N.S.) Caucus (Backbench) - Exco Actions: Thoughts -
Demonstrate, Mr. D. Downe 691
Res. 275, Abor. Affs. - Fishing: Mi'kmaq Treaty Rts. - Agreement
(Non-Gov't.) Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 692
Res. 276, Justice - Glace Bay: Court Serv. - Reinstate, Mr. D. Wilson 692
Res. 277, Justice - Equality (Women): Dawn Russell & Anne Derrick -
Contributions Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 693
Res. 278, Gov't. (N.S.) - Leadership Strong: Premier - Detail,
Mr. W. Gaudet 694
Res. 279, Bill No. 9 (Ambulance Serv.) - Revoke, Mr. D. Dexter 694
Res. 280, Gov't. (N.S.) - Leadership: Real - Show, Mr. K. MacAskill 695
Res. 281, Antigonish MLA - Constituency: Representative - Remind,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 696
Res. 282, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Balls Creek-Keltic Dr.: Water Problems -
Address, Mr. B. Boudreau 696
Res. 283, Culture - Celtic Colours Internat. Fest.: Success - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Corbett 697
Vote - Affirmative 698
Res. 284, Dartmouth East MLA - Health Care (Lib. Plan):
Incompetence - Recognize, Mr. J. DeWolfe 698
Res. 285, Health - Breast Cancer: Awareness Day - Support,
Mr. D. Downe 698
Vote - Affirmative 699
Res. 286, Fin. - Budget (1999-2000 [14/10/99]): Caring - Demonstrate,
Mr. K. Deveaux 699
Res. 287, Econ. Dev. - Ski Cape Smokey: Funding - Consider,
Mr. K. MacAskill 700
Res. 288, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 103: Completion -
Persuade (Chester-St. Margaret's MLA), Mr. W. Estabrooks 700
Res. 289, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Antigonish Bypass: Red Route -
Support (PC Caucus) Indicate, Mr. D. Wilson 701
Res. 290, Commun. Serv. - Dart. Boys & Girls Club:
Racism Elimination - Support, Mr. J. Pye 701
Vote - Affirmative 702
Res. 291, Lbr. - Paramedics: Safety Enhancement - Explain,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 702
Res. 292, Educ. - Enfield DES: Artefacts Preservation - Congrats.,
Mr. John MacDonell 703
Vote - Affirmative 704
Res. 293, Econ. Dev. - DynaGen Systems Inc. (Paul Wareham):
Innovation - Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 704
Vote - Affirmative 704
Res. 294, Educ. - MSVU (Hon. Dr.): Anne Derrick (Lawyer) - Congrats.,
Ms. E. O'Connell 704
Res. 295, Culture: Le Village Historique de la Nouvelle-Écosse
(West Pubnico) - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 705
Vote - Affirmative 706
Res. 296, Educ. - Universities: Students Debt Load - Priority,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 706
Vote - Affirmative 707
Res. 297, Sports - Soccer (N.S. Boys Under 15 Tier II): Hfx. Co.
Utd. Champs. - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 707
Vote - Affirmative 708
Res. 298, Environ. - Uranium Ban: Legislation - Introduce,
Mr. John MacDonell 708
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 9, Ground Ambulance Services Act 709
Hon. J. Muir 709
Dr. J. Smith 712
Mr. R. Chisholm 717
Hon. R. Russell 733
Previous Question Put 733
HOUSE RECESSED AT 2:05 P.M. 733
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 2:13 P.M. 733
Mr. R. MacKinnon 737
Mr. D. Dexter 750
Mr. R. MacLellan 764
Mr. W. Estabrooks 770
Mr. D. Downe 784
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 800
Mr. Manning MacDonald 808
Mr. F. Corbett 824
Mr. K. MacAskill 837
Mr. K. Deveaux 843
Mr. P. MacEwan 860
Mr. John MacDonell 870
Mr. B. Boudreau 875
Mr. J. Pye 885
Mr. W. Gaudet 899
Adjourned debate 901
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Oct. 26th at 9 a.m. 902

[Page 689]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1999

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Kevin Deveaux

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

689

[Page 690]

RESOLUTION NO. 272

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on Friday, October 22nd, the Minister of Health introduced Bill No. 9, An Act Respecting the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas on Friday, as well, on October 22, 1999, the Government House Leader stated that the House of Assembly would sit as many hours as it would take to pass Bill No. 9 by Friday, October 29, 1999, no matter what the circumstances; and

Whereas the Government House Leader, who is also the Minister of Labour, has hinted that this government is prepared to violate its own health and safety Act to achieve its politically motivated agenda;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour assure all members of this House that he is not prepared to violate Nova Scotia's Occupational Health and Safety Act to achieve his politically motivated agenda.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 273

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on July 5th, the Premier wrote that, "A Progressive Conservative government will honour the collective bargaining process. We will do everything possible to foster a climate of open and fair negotiations . . ."; and

Whereas the Throne Speech and budget introduced a new Conservative philosophy which opposes all forms of government intrusion into Nova Scotians' lives; and

[Page 691]

Whereas the new government has placed particular emphasis on the elimination of existing laws which hinder the freedom of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to keep its promise by fostering a climate of open and fair negotiations instead of relying on intrusive laws to avoid making a fair offer to paramedics.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 274

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Minister of Finance has recently been compared to the fictional character of the Tin Man; and

Whereas the member for Antigonish resembled the Lion of the same tale by not showing up for a public debate last weekend; and

Whereas the Leader of the government would make an appropriate Scarecrow for the lack of thought put into his government's recent decisions;

Therefore be it resolved that the backbench members of the Tory caucus show the front benches what they think of their actions in this House by clicking their heels together three times and repeating, there is no place like home.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[Page 692]

RESOLUTION NO. 275

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Mi'kmaq community and most non-native fishing organizations have worked without support from the federal or provincial governments to reach an agreement on the implementation of newly confirmed Mi'kmaq treaty rights; and

Whereas the benefits of cool heads and a cooperative approach have become evident most recently in southwest Nova Scotia, Halifax Harbour and in Pictou County; and

Whereas this grass-roots success has confounded the fearmongers and political exploiters who have brought emotions to the brink in many communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the non-native and Mi'kmaq representatives who are guiding the immediate implementation of Mi'kmaq rights and urge all levels of government to support and follow this local leadership.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 276

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the plan to move court facilities in Glace Bay to Sydney will deliver another unnecessary Tory blow to the Glace Bay economy; and

Whereas this move according to the Justice Minister is okay because Glace Bay is only 12 minutes from Sydney; and

[Page 693]

Whereas the plan will mean that a Sydney businessman with Tory connections will add another government office to his real estate empire;

Therefore be it resolved that this House demand that the Justice Minister reverse this decision so that the economic health of Glace Bay residents is not sacrificed to line the pockets of a Tory supporter.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 277

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on Friday the members for Cape Breton West, and Richmond refused to waive notice on a motion honouring two female lawyers who received an award for their contribution to women's equality in and through the legal profession; and

Whereas no doubt these two members live surrounded by wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, granddaughters, aunts, nieces or other female relations; and

Whereas such pettiness may well encourage their female relations to turn The Colour Purple, join The First Wive's Club or, in the words of the old English ballad, Get up and Bar the Door;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Anne Derrick and Dawn Russell on their outstanding contributions to women's equality.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[Page 694]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 278

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Tory Government of John Hamm has told Nova Scotians that they will provide the province with strong leadership despite the fact that the leadership provided so far has been muddled at best, and cold-hearted at worst; and

Whereas the policy of the current government to act first and tell those affected later, shows a lack of political nerve; and

Whereas the member for Dartmouth South says taking $2.2 million out of the hands of charities and disbanding the board members without their knowledge is in fact strong leadership;

Therefore be it resolved that John Hamm follow the act of the member for Dartmouth South and explain to all Nova Scotians what his government feels is strong leadership.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 279

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 695]

Whereas the Minister of Health has stated on numerous occasions that there was a contingency plan in place, in case of a paramedic strike; and

Whereas the Minister of Health has now trampled the rights of paramedics by introducing a bill taking away their right to strike; and

Whereas the minister now refuses to discuss the collective bargaining process of the paramedics because he says the government is not involved with the process;

Therefore be it resolved that this Minister of Health revoke this bill and restore full and fair collective bargaining rights to paramedics and do as he has maintained all along and not interfere in the collective bargaining process.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 280

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Premier was elected based on a platform called, "Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course"; and

Whereas last week the premier admitted he was off course and needed a review task force to provide the leadership on cuts; and

Whereas this new government already has a history of rejecting recommendations and reports that they do not agree with;

[12:15 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government show real leadership and start making decisions instead of passing the buck.

[Page 696]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 281

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on Saturday, 500 people gathered in Antigonish for a debate on the highway bypass routes; and

Whereas the MLA for the area was noticeable for his absence; and

Whereas this same MLA has come out in support of a more costly route, the red route, which is unpopular with the majority of citizens in the Antigonish area;

Therefore be it resolved that the House remind the member for Antigonish that he represents all people in the area, not just the business sector, and that it is his responsibility to attend meetings and hear all points of view, like it or not.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 282

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the residents of the Balls Creek - Keltic Drive area have suffered with a poor water supply for many years; and

Whereas residents have been patient, waiting for the province to work with the municipality to solve this problem; and

[Page 697]

Whereas a recent meeting between the residents and the former Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs was cancelled without warning when the minister was forced out of office;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government address the water problems in the Balls Creek - Keltic Drive area and apologize to the residents for cancelling the meeting with the temporary Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 283

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Celtic Colours International Festival, which ran from October 8th to October 16th, is one of the most sensational and cultural events of the year; and

Whereas Cape Breton is known for its strong Celtic roots and its tremendous amount of talent, such as the Minister of Tourism and Culture; and

Whereas the festival brings together over 300 Celtic artists from all over the world to share in the beauty and heritage of Cape Breton Island;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate the 1,500-plus volunteers, Rave Entertainment, members of the Celtic Colours Festival Society and staff for an excellent job in supporting and promoting the Celtic tradition of the island.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[Page 698]

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 284

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the member for Dartmouth East, the former Minister of Health, is quoted in the Cape Breton Post on June 3rd of this year saying, "I didn't come here this morning with a full plan . . . we're are creating it as we go."; and

Whereas despite the Liberal crackling from the other side, the Progressive Conservative Government has moved quickly and efficiently to begin implementing our health care plan for Nova Scotians; and

Whereas since August 16th, our Progressive Conservative Government has advertised for the position of a nursing advisor who will work constructively with nurses across Nova Scotia to ensure the problems generated during the Liberal reign of confusion will not happen again, while also announcing a comprehensive assessment of Nova Scotia's health care facilities;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Dartmouth East recognize his Party's own extreme incompetence in devising a plan for health care for all Nova Scotians, instead of misleading them as he did on Monday in this Legislature by reading a resolution that contained information that was in error.

MR. SPEAKER: That motion was a bit long.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 285

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 699]

Whereas breast cancer has touched the lives of thousands of Canadian women and their families; and

Whereas the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Atlantic Chapter, will be holding its fourth Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day, Ribbon of Hope, on October 28, 1999, at the World Trade and Convention Centre; and

Whereas the event will include an education seminar and luncheon;

Therefore be it resolved that this House support the fourth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day so that the scourge of breast cancer may be eliminated.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 286

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas horror movies are often released in October, as was this government's first budget; and

Whereas Nova Scotians may be wondering if their services are facing Hammibal Lecter, Darth Premier, or Stellarton Jones and the Temple of Gloom; and

Whereas Progressive Conservative supporters do not want a repeat of the Savage Witch Project, with Bernie Boudreau back all over again;

Therefore be it resolved that the government should go straight to the Hollywood ending and show the caring, realistic sense of priorities that many Nova Scotians thought they were choosing on July 27th.

[Page 700]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 287

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Ski Cape Smokey has provided many hours of fine skiing and has added greatly to the local economy of northern Cape Breton; and

Whereas many people from across our province use this facility for fun and relaxation; and

Whereas Ski Cape Smokey needs an annual subsidy from the province to effectively operate;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Economic Development consider the request for funding to Ski Cape Smokey and help the local economy in one of our most depressed areas of our province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 288

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the previous Minister of Transportation announced the paving of Highway No. 333 from Tantallon to Peggy's Cove, which is one of the busiest tourist routes in the province, as a multi-year project; and

Whereas during the 1998 paving season, Highway No. 333 was paved as far as Indian Point Road under the previous Minister of Transportation; and

Whereas there has been no paving and no paving announcements for this busy road from the current part-time Tory Minister of Transportation and Public Works;

[Page 701]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Human Resources and the member for Chester-St. Margaret's persuade his Cabinet colleague, the part-time Minister of Transportation and Public Works, to go ahead with the completion of this partially completed project.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 289

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas over 500 people gathered at St. Ninian's Hall in Antigonish on Saturday for a debate sponsored by the Safe Roads Community Coalition; and

Whereas supporters of the Tory red route plan, including the MLA for Antigonish, did not attend that event; and

Whereas the Tory red route proposal will mean roads that are less safe and a $4 million to $11 million cost overrun;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the proponents of the red route in the Tory caucus to step forward and explain the political decision-making process to the public, a process that could cost taxpayers in terms of money and lives lost.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 290

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 702]

Whereas it is always important to combat racism by working towards its total elimination; and

Whereas this challenge is a special millennium initiative that invites young people across Canada to take up the challenge to stop racism; and

Whereas the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club has taken up the Stop Racism Youth Challenge today by participating in a walk from the Dartmouth Sportsplex to the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislative Assembly congratulate the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club in its effort to eliminate racism.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 291

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Minister of Labour professes to protect the rights of workers in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this same minister commissioned to protect the health and well-being of Nova Scotian workers, including paramedics, refused to enact safety regulations this fall despite a two and one-half year's extensive consultative process; and

Whereas this Minister of Labour, who also served as Minister of Labour in the Buchanan-Cameron Regime, is showing a total disregard for workers' safety;

[Page 703]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour explain to the paramedics of Nova Scotia how safety is enhanced as he turns back the hands of time.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 292

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the preservation of artefacts contributes to the understanding of future generations of past cultures; and

Whereas time capsules are an informative and fun way of teaching children a sense of history and of contributing to their future understanding; and

Whereas the students and teachers at Enfield District Elementary took it upon themselves to prepare two time capsules for placement in the new Enfield Elementary School, which was done at a ceremony on October 31st at the new school site;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the students and teachers of Enfield District Elementary and those who contributed to make the event a success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 704]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 293

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Sydney businessman Paul Wareham, founder of DynaGen Systems Inc. develops and markets microprocessors that automatically monitor engines; and

Whereas last week Mr. Wareham was presented the Young Entrepreneur Award for Nova Scotia by the Business Development Bank for small business week; and

Whereas winners of the award are selected on criteria such as company growth, involvement in the new technology-based economy, innovation, community work and export performance;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Paul Wareham and encourage others like him to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that will help grow the Cape Breton economy through the 21st Century.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 294

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 705]

Whereas Anne Derrick garners wide respect as a feminist lawyer and human rights activist; and

Whereas Ms. Derrick works strenuously to promote and defend human rights and civil liberties; and

Whereas on Sunday, October 24th, Mount Saint Vincent University awarded an honorary doctorate to Ms. Derrick in recognition of her outstanding service to the people of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ms. Derrick on her honorary doctorate and commend her for her sterling efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 295

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, with your permission I would like to do the following resolution in French first, and then in English for all members of the House.

M. le Président, par la présente, j'avise que je proposerai à une date ultérieure, l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse à Pubnico-Ouest complète une première saison touristique très réussie; et

Attendu que le Village historique acadien a largement dépassé son objectif qui était d'attiere 4 000 visiteurs cette année; et

Attendu que le succès du Village historique acadien de Pubnico-Ouest est un témoignage de l'importance et de l'intérêt que les Néo-Écossais accordent à leurs histoire et à la reconnaissance de leur peuple fondateur;

[Page 706]

Qu'il soit résolu que cette Chambre exprime ses félicitations et transmette ses meilleurs voeux de succès continu aux fondateurs et aux promoteurs du Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

M. le Président, je propose l'adoption de cette résolution sans préavis et sans débats.

Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Le Village Historique de la Nouvelle-Écosse in West Pubnico has successfully completed its first season; and

Whereas Le Village Historique Acadien exceeded its target of 4,000 visitors by more than 500 visitors; and

Whereas the success of Le Village Historique Acadien is evidence of the interest Nova Scotians have in the history of its founding people;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations and best wishes for continued success to the developers and founders of Le Village Historique de la Nouvelle- Écosse.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 296

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Canada has the third highest university tuition fees in the OECD; and

[Page 707]

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas on average, tuition fees for undergraduate Arts programs across the country increased by more than 90 per cent over the past eight years, from $1,644 in 1990 to $3,179 in 1998; and

Whereas Nova Scotia Universities have the dubious distinction of having the highest tuition in the country;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education give priority attention to addressing a trend which shackles many students with an unreasonable debt load and prices a university education beyond the reach of many others.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 297

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the sport of soccer involves many athletes of all ages in our communities; and

Whereas provincial championships are the results of a great deal of hard work and dedication for those involved; and

Whereas the Halifax County United Under 15 Boys captured the Tier II Provincial Soccer Championship this season;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the members of the Halifax County United, Coach Paul Brown, Assistant Coach Joe White and Manager Ross Swain.

[Page 708]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 298

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Minister of the Environment, when he was an Opposition MLA, introduced a Private Member's Bill in 1995 to prohibit uranium mining in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Liberal Government of the day let the bill die on the order paper; and

Whereas the great weight of public opinion opposed uranium mining as posing an unacceptable environmental and health risk to Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment follow through on his 1995 commitment and reintroduce legislation to ban uranium mining in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

It is agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 709]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 9.

Bill No. 9 - Ground Ambulance Services Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I rise to move second reading on Bill No. 9, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province. This bill deals with an issue of enormous public significance.

When Nova Scotians fall ill or are injured in an accident, they expect their emergency health care system to respond. While respecting the concept of free collective bargaining, Nova Scotians nevertheless feel there are certain issues that can never be compromised. Emergency health care fits into that category, Mr. Speaker.

This government did not take the decision to introduce this legislation lightly. We respect the commendable efforts put forth by the province's paramedics. These workers deserve fair and reasonable contracts, but they are currently involved in a dispute with their employers that has dragged on far too long. This dispute has reached a point where a strike is a very distinct possibility. The risk to public safety posed by a work stoppage in this province's ground ambulance services in undeniable.

Mr. Speaker, as a government we have an obligation to intervene in the dispute in a way which is fair to both employer and employee. Settling the dispute through an independent arbitration board is a reasonable compromise.

I want to touch on several aspects of the legislation, but first it is important to examine some of the history that led us to this situation. Bargaining between Emergency Medical Care, the employers, and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, representing the employees, has been going on for more than 15 months. As this was their first contract, the

[Page 710]

process was slower than might normally be expected. Further complicating the issue was the fact that the employees had worked for more than 40 separate employers prior to coming under the umbrella of a single employer, Emergency Medical Care.

On October 1st, a tentative agreement was reached between the union and the employer. That settlement included a reference to all outstanding issues such as wages, hours of work and pension benefits to binding arbitration. The two sides agreed on an arbitrator, former Chief Justice Lorne Clarke. However, following a series of ratification meetings, the union announced that its membership had rejected the agreement. While we may not have agreed with the choice they took, we certainly respect the memberships right to decide whether to accept or reject the tentative agreement. For Nova Scotians, however, the results of the vote meant that a strike date was then scheduled for this coming Friday, October 29th.

We were obviously disappointed in the final outcome of the vote. However, the negotiating teams for both sides demonstrated vision in agreeing to arbitration as well as confidence in the reasonableness of their positions. The negotiating teams obviously understood that arbitration would balance their interest with the public interest. Certainly this government was comfortable in having the employer's offer tested before an impartial tribunal.

With the rejection of the tentative settlement, government became increasingly concerned about the potential impact of a province-wide strike and what it would mean for public safety. As required by the Department of Health, EMC had a contingency plan in place but let's not try to fool ourselves, Mr. Speaker, even the best contingency plan could not hope to match the work provided by 600 paramedics, especially in the event of a province-wide withdrawal of services.

The government had three options: one, do nothing and hope that the situation would resolve itself through the normal bargaining process; two, put more taxpayers' dollars in the hands of the employer; and three, attempt to find a compromise solution which was fair to both sides. To sit idly by and do nothing would have been an abrogation of our duty to protect public safety and was unacceptable. On the issue of funding, we were confident that there was already enough money on the table to provide paramedics with a fair and reasonable contract settlement.

That left option three, Mr. Speaker. Our compromise solution was to have the outstanding issues adjudicated by an independent arbitration board, something the two negotiating teams had already agreed to. Binding arbitration is a method of settling disputes with a long history in collective bargaining. Binding arbitration favours neither party in a dispute, instead, it relies on an independent observer to render decisions based on evidence presented by both sides.

[Page 711]

Critics have tried to make the case that the government is somehow picking on the union membership through this bill. That is totally untrue. Remember, there are two sides involved in this dispute - the employer and the union. Both have a lot to gain, or lose, in this arbitration process. The Opposition seems to suggest that through some mystical powers, they already know what the arbitration board may or may not decide. The reality is that the process will have risks and opportunities for both sides. Perhaps it will be the employer and not the union that ends up being uncomfortable with the arbitrator's decision.

In most disputes, Mr. Speaker, no one gets all they want. So they must compromise. In the current dispute, the compromising process appears to have broken down, so what we are suggesting is to try another way of resolving the dispute, in this case, binding arbitration. Under this scenario, both sides will have ample opportunity to put their best cases forward and have an independent arbitrator board settle the issue.

What is also interesting about this process, Mr. Speaker, is that there is still an opportunity, even while this issue is before the House, to have the two parties settle outstanding issues without third party intervention. Negotiations can continue even after the arbitration process has begun and if the two sides can reach an agreement on issues, then arbitration won't be necessary.

Mr. Speaker, some are suggesting that the government's action in dealing with this threat to public safety is premature, that we could have waited a bit longer to see if the two sides could resolve their differences on their own. Well, they have had more than 15 months to come up with an agreement and yet we are now just four days away from a potential province-wide strike by 600 or so paramedics. When would our critics have us act, after the strike was underway? We just couldn't take that chance. We could no longer rely solely on the best intentions of the two parties to resolve this dispute. We have an obligation and a duty to protect public safety, and if that means intervening in a labour dispute, well then, so be it.

A province-wide strike by paramedics, even for a short period of time, would pose an unacceptably high risk to public safety. This is especially true in rural Nova Scotia, where many residents often live considerable distances from the nearest hospital emergency room. The percentage of seniors living in many parts of rural Nova Scotia is very high. This is a group that relies on emergency personnel to get them to and from hospital. This is another reason why we cannot allow our emergency services to be interrupted.

The bill before us today is not about bargaining rights, it is about public rights. It is about the public's right to expect an ambulance to show up when it is needed. It is about protecting our families, our neighbours and our friends in the event of an emergency. As I mentioned at the outset, the decision to introduce this legislation was not an easy one, but the easiest decisions are not always the right ones.

[Page 712]

As government, we accept our responsibility to protect the public interests. Where public interest conflicts with private interest, we will come down on the side of the public good. In so doing, we will try our best to seek a compromise. This is what we are doing in Bill No. 9. Binding arbitration will result in a contract that reconciles the interests of the employer and its employees, while at the same time ensures the continuation of ground ambulance service.

I am looking forward to the debate and the comments and suggestions that I am sure will come from all members of this House. Thank you. I move second reading of Bill No. 9.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to address Bill No. 9. I rise today, as a member of this Legislature, somewhat dismayed, disappointed and very concerned about this particular piece of legislation, Bill No. 9. The confusion lies in the minister's statements made earlier last week.

Last week, as we all recall, the paramedics of this province visited the Legislature to share their concerns. They came to the House to speak to members of this government about their thoughts and about their feelings on negotiations and the progress to date. These same paramedics spoke with the minister. They were here simply to voice their concerns. To this government, I say this is no different than any other public servants who are at a crossroads in their negotiations.

We, as Opposition, I believe acted predictably. We, like you when you were in Opposition, asked questions of the minister during Question Period. We simply wanted to show our visitors, in this case the paramedics, that we share their concerns, and like them, are searching for answers and looking for solutions. I, as Opposition critic, asked two very distinct questions last week pertaining to negotiations. I simply asked the minister if he had met with EMC to discuss the issue of wages, and whether he had seen and was satisfied that, in fact, a contingency plan was in place should one be needed.

In the minister's response to the first question, the minister implied that these negotiations are between employer and its employees, and as a government, they were not going to get involved in the negotiating process. The minister also indicated that there was, in fact, a contingency plan in place should one be required, however, it was his hope that the two sides would continue to negotiate.

Mr. Speaker, I am not certain as to whether the tabling of Bill No. 9 here today, that we have seen, was in fact the contingency plan that the minister spoke of. Perhaps it was. I can assure you this government is now involved in the process. If there was indeed a contingency plan that the minister claimed he had, then tabling this type of legislation, which removes the rights of paramedics before they even have the opportunity to exercise them,

[Page 713]

would not be necessary. The minister, last week, also expressed his desire to see both sides continue to negotiate. By tabling legislation that forces government into the middle of the negotiating process almost guarantees that negotiations will cease.

[12:45 p.m.]

I must ask, in all fairness, Mr. Speaker, where is the incentive for EMC to continue to negotiate. EMC knows that at the end of this week the stick that is being handed to them by this government, the very stick that is being held over the paramedics' heads, can be used to benefit them. I ask this minister and I ask this government, where is the fairness to the paramedics in Bill No. 9?

Mr. Speaker, this is the first major piece of legislation brought forward by this government, that is being debated here today. Many pundits are saying that this is just the beginning, that this is a sign of how this government will treat all of its employees, including those people who are not directly employed by the government. I say that this piece of legislation is a disappointment.

Negotiating a first collective agreement with a group of workers is always a challenge. To bring together a group of workers and negotiate one wage for all, one set of rules with regard to vacation time, overtime and training requirements, is never easy. I know this from personal experience. The paramedics who have been negotiating in good faith with their employer over the last year know this as well. They have, Mr. Speaker, demonstrated fair practices on their end of the bargain, in good faith. This government when the time comes has shown that they cannot hold up their end. Earlier this year our Liberal Government was faced with strikes in 41 nursing homes right across this province. Like the situation this government finds itself in, we were not the employer of those negotiating either. However, unlike this government, we remained committed to a process that we saw as fair.

Mr. Speaker, we had the option of introducing this type of intrusive legislation, we did not and the process worked. In recollecting our situation just a few short months ago, I recall a statement made by the Premier, that today can only be classified as ironic. The now Premier, last March, stated, when he was in Opposition, " . . . all Nova Scotians want a strike avoided, the workers want the strike avoided. Will . . . government . . . fulfil its commitment to long-term care workers of fairness, equity. . .". That is what he said then. That is probably what he should be saying more today.

Mr. Speaker, we have come full circle. Nothing has changed today. The situation our government faced last March is no different from the situation this government is faced with today. People in Nova Scotia don't want to see the paramedics strike. No one likes to see workers who provide hands-on care in times of emergency not be there in their time of need. Likewise, the paramedics don't want to strike. They have spent the last 12 months or so in

[Page 714]

tough, earnest negotiations to avoid such a situation. Furthermore, it goes against everything that they have worked hard and trained for.

Many of these paramedics have spent many years training and upgrading their training in order to help people. To strike and not provide assistance to the public goes against everything they believe in. I have known many of these people personally. I have known them all of their lives, in fact, some, I was there at the time of their birth. So I know these people and I know they don't want to be in this position and they have worked hard the last year in negotiation, they have worked fair and they bargain in good faith.

Paramedics care about people very much and they go into this profession because they are caring people. They are not in this profession because they are the type of people who really don't care about the people of Nova Scotia. They do care and when it comes time for this government to treat them with respect and to repay what these hard-working women and men do for all Nova Scotia, the payback by holding this piece of legislation over their heads, that is the payback from this government and I say, shame. (Applause)

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame is right.

DR. SMITH: This government pays it back by saying, thank you for your service and thank you for negotiating in good faith for 13 months but now, with one week left to go, we can't leave it in your capable hands any more. We must interfere in the process, a process that we all started following, a process that you, as paramedics, were committed to, but we, as a government, find that we can no longer follow.

You know, Mr. Speaker, a few short months ago, the role between the minister and I was reversed. Forty-one nursing homes were set to strike. Nurses working in these homes were demanding that the government of the day, our government, treat them fairly and pay them the same wages as nurses were being paid in the acute care sector. You, minister, as an Opposition member, were demanding the same. Likewise, so was your Premier. You were demanding fairness. You were demanding that we get involved by putting more money on the table. You were demanding that the nurses of this province deserved nothing less. Nothing has changed. The paramedics are in the same situation today. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the collective bargaining process is a fragile process. It involves an employer to put an offer on the table. It involves employees looking at the offer and determining whether it is acceptable. It involves give-and-take negotiations, some of which the employer wins and some of which the employee wins. In the end, however, the outcome is one where both parties see that they have reached a compromise. Both are in agreement that they came up with the best deal that they could.

[Page 715]

However, to interject the government into the middle of this negotiation process throws this process off balance. Who is going to win by introducing this legislation? Certainly the employer, on the surface, sees it as a win. Not only do they not have to execute their contingency plan, if there was one and I certainly hope there was and is, they also don't have to commit any more dollars to the solution, at least for now. What happens when the workforce returns knowing that they haven't been treated fairly? Are they demoralized? Are they upset? How do you reasonably expect this not to impact on the day-to-day job that they are called upon to perform at all hours of the day.

I would say, given this legislation, that all of these scenarios are very strong possibilities. For the employees, this is clearly not a win. The one bargaining chip that they held throughout this whole process has been taken away. They have felt through the collective bargaining process that a balance has not been achieved, the balance has been lost. They felt that they were not being treated fairly and there was a course of action that they could take that could possibly lead to what they believe to be a fairer solution. This course of action has now been blocked.

Nurses in the long-term care sector found themselves in a similar situation a few months ago. We as government could have taken the easy way out; we could have taken similar steps, but we didn't. We didn't because we believed strongly in the outcome of the collective bargaining process. We believed that at the end of the day both sides would negotiate an agreement that all parties saw as fair. We, as a government, did not meddle. We monitored the contingency plans of nursing homes that did strike. Many of the homes that could have went out on strike, did not. Why didn't they? I believe it is because at the end of the day they felt they were being treated fairly and everyone involved in the negotiating process was willing to do their part in good faith, without interference.

There was a lot of pressure on us to intervene. I remember it well. I remember when there were snowballs thrown at one of the nursing homes - at the Alzheimer's unit - and the whole patient group got upset. We monitored that and we stayed the course; I am glad we did, and I think the long-term care sector is better for it. It is not easy. I know there are choices, but that is really what government is all about.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that negotiations with the paramedics and EMC have been going on for some time. During the course of these delicate negotiations came an outcome which I see particularly crucial to the essence of this bill. Between the employer and the employees were discussions centred around the issue of essential services. During the bargaining process, the union committed to cooperating with EMC should a strike occur. I think this part is very important. Paramedics made a commitment to the employer. They agreed to adhere to rotating strikes, and they agreed not to go all at once. There was a commitment made by paramedics to ensure public safety. I think we should not lose sight of that here today. (Applause)

[Page 716]

Mr. Speaker, the government has brought this piece of legislation in when the two negotiating parties have agreed to ensure public safety. All members of this House were ensured that a contingency plan was in place. Why then would the government insert itself in the middle of a process during such a crucial period?

Government, as I said earlier, is about making choices. This government had other choices available and they have other choices before them today. This government could have met with EMC to see how far apart the two sides were. This government, when in Opposition, were not opposed to that course of action. This government could have put more money into the situation they were so willing to suggest when we ourselves were faced with a similar delicate negotiation. They seemed to have found a whole group of money, they were going to fix the health care system with $46 million that they were going to take out of administration. They came up with another $204 million. Maybe they could take a little more from charities to put into the pot, they could fill the pot. They have been very innovative so far. I don't think this was beyond them to come to the table and to solve the problems a bit more. They will be held accountable at the end of the day, anyway, and we will see this unfold.

Mr. Speaker, this government could have allowed the delicate bargaining process to continue. After all, this minister, not one week ago, was certain that a contingency plan was in place. It is, after all, the role of EMC to ensure that this plan is in place. The paramedics themselves were concerned about public safety and were willing to honour their commitment to public safety should a strike occur.

Why then would the government circumvent the process, the very process that they were unwilling to participate in a week ago? Why would the government show that it is unwilling to allow a fair bargaining process to continue? Why would the government tell these paramedics that they no longer care about their concerns? This government had choices that would yield a much more productive result than what this piece of legislation will yield at the end of the day.

[1:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, our government is more than aware of the negotiations between the paramedics and EMC. Both of these parties have worked extremely hard and have resolved a large number of issues to date. Both sides in the past have reported progress. Why would government want to hinder progress now?

Our government was very proud of the results that have been achieved to date with the paramedics. These dedicated individuals have remained true to their end of the bargain. We saw the creation of EMC in this province as a win-win situation for the residents of the province and, indeed, the paramedics. Today, people in Nova Scotia have a vastly improved ambulance service than we had a few short years ago. The ambulances that serve rural Nova

[Page 717]

Scotia are now the same ambulances that serve metro Halifax. Every ambulance is now staffed by paramedics and every ambulance is well maintained and equipped.

Mr. Speaker, through the course of negotiations between EMC and paramedics, many issues have been resolved. Working conditions have improved. Since becoming the primary operator, EMC has been able to significantly reduce the number of hours worked for over 75 per cent of the paramedics; EMC is also hiring more paramedics to bring these hours down even more. Benefits that they receive are much improved and continuing education opportunities are now available in this province.

Mr. Speaker, these issues have been negotiated. We as a government did not insert ourselves in this process. Sure, we set parameters, as do all governments when negotiating, but what we clearly demonstrated was faith in the process. What this legislation clearly demonstrates is the lack of faith in this process.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation concerns me and it concerns our caucus. It concerns us because of the timing and because of its nature. Our caucus has faith in the people who were, and perhaps may still be, negotiating. We do not see a role for government in the middle of a process where they do not belong.

In closing, my comments at this juncture, we look at the major issues of wages, negotiation, but also on the issue of essential service and the definition of essential service and the recognition that that gives. The issue of binding arbitration is an area that may well have a positive outcome for the paramedics, and I hope it does but our argument is with the insertion of the government in the process at this juncture and interference with the balance. As I mentioned, the contingency plan in the event of a strike, I do believe that the paramedics themselves would be responsible and they are a large part of that contingency plan, commitment. They too are concerned about the public safety.

I could speak longer, Mr. Speaker, there are certainly other issues, but I will at this juncture turn it over to other members of the Legislature who want to address Bill No. 9 and we will be following it through the process of the House where we will have other interventions. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that three months into this government we have a piece of legislation that suspends collective bargaining in this province. I mean who would have expected it. Over the last six years, when you listened to this group when they were in Opposition, condemning the Liberal Party when they were in government, whenever they - and they did it several times - brought in legislation taking away the rights of workers to bargain collectively. Unbelievable. Three months.

[Page 718]

I mean, is this an indication of how you are going to treat workers in the Province of Nova Scotia? As soon as negotiations seem to get a bit tough, not going the way you felt they might go, creating a little bit of pressure, are you going to bring in the hammer? I am telling you, it is not a good sign for working people in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health stands up and he says that this was not an easy decision. Every time I have sat in this House - and I have been here for going on nine years - I have heard a government stand up, take away workers' rights, and say it was a tough decision. Just like we are going to see in the spring, the government cutting and slashing, and saying, it hurts me more than it is hurting you.

People do not buy that kind of rhetoric, Mr. Speaker, because what they see are the consequences of this government's action. If the Minister of Health wanted to intervene in the collective bargaining process, which he said all last week that he wasn't going to, when we talked about things like introducing an amendment to the Labour Standards Code to change the minimum wage order, oh, the Minister of Health said, I can't do that, that would be intervening in the collective bargaining process. When we suggested to the Minister of Health that maybe he should talk to EMC about putting a little more money on the table, the minister said, oh, no, we can't do that, that would be intervening in the collective bargaining process. We are not going to do that because we believe in collective bargaining and we think the parties should be left alone to hammer it out. What a lot of bunk, Mr. Speaker.

What does the minister do when at his first opportunity he brings down a piece of legislation which takes workers' rights away. Which strips workers' rights to bargain fairly and collectively for their collective agreement, Mr. Speaker. Shameful! If the minister suddenly woke up in the middle of the night and said, you know what, I had better do something here. In the spirit of public safety or because I truly believe that these paramedics are good women and men who made an incredible contribution to this province and this isn't good enough, 15 months of bargaining for a first collective agreement, not fair, and I am going to insert myself into the collective bargaining process.

The minister got up and made himself a few notes and maybe in the morning he said to his staff or maybe to the Minister of Labour, how about we introduce a bill that amends the Labour Standards Code? How about we have greater discussions between EMC and the union representing paramedics to figure out what is the problem here, what are the issues, what are the things that we can do to somehow bring this to a resolve?

The minister could have done that. He could have, but instead he got up that morning and he said, time to bring down the hammer, time to extinguish workers' rights in the Province of Nova Scotia for paramedics, regardless of the contribution that they make because we have decided it will be so. Mr. Speaker, is that creative thinking? Is that creative problem solving? Is that respectful behaviour of a Minister of the Crown towards important

[Page 719]

public servants, important workers in the Province of Nova Scotia? You bet it is not and this attitude had better change.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk for a minute about what the minister had to say and he said that he saw this as a reasonable compromise. A reasonable compromise? What kind of a reasonable compromise is it to take away the rights of the workers to bargain collectively? The minister said in his comments initiating debate on second reading that the negotiating team on October 1st reached an agreement with the employer that they would take outstanding issues to binding arbitration. They took that around the province and the membership, to the tune of 78 per cent, rejected that settlement. The minister says, I respect that the members had the right to reject that settlement. Then he turns around with this piece of legislation and imposes that same settlement. The minister just doesn't get it, that is not collective bargaining.

The negotiating team represents the membership and it is their job to go in there and to try to get a settlement that is agreeable. They are the spokespeople, they are the representatives of the membership in negotiations. You can't have them all there, so you have a team, you pick a negotiating team. They don't operate on their own. In some instances, Mr. Speaker, the negotiating team may go back a dozen times to the table with a different package because they come back to the membership and the membership says, no, you weren't listening or that is not good enough, that doesn't deal with this issue, it doesn't deal with that issue, go back and try again. That is how it works. That is how the process works. You can't just intervene because you think one particular tentative settlement was the settlement and you have decided that that is the one we are going to accept. That just takes away the rights of those workers, it takes away all the democratic principles of trade unionism and collective bargaining. It is an aberration, it is an insult and it should not be allowed in this province.

The membership rejected the settlement. That is important to remember. The minister said we had three options. We could do nothing. He said we could put more money on the table but on that one he said, but we think there was already enough money on the table. On that point, let me just, as a little aside, say that the government is really playing it cute, I would suggest, on this whole business of this is between the employer and the employees, between the employers and the workers, as if the government doesn't have a vested interest in who that employer is and doesn't pull the strings for that employer and their bargaining team; clearly they do.

The government says that they put enough money on the table because that is where the money is coming from, it is coming from the government. But if the government wanted a settlement, if they wanted to treat these workers with the respect that they deserve, which they talked about during the election campaign, at some length, then maybe that is what they need to do, maybe they need to sweeten the offer. Maybe the minister needs to go back to the Cabinet table and say to his colleagues, you know in the interest of public safety, in the interest of making sure that these workers, who we value so greatly, get a fair settlement, we

[Page 720]

have to sweeten the offer. We have to put a little more money on the table. The minister didn't do that. In the spirit of what he calls public safety, he decided instead to take away the rights of these workers and to jam a settlement down their throats that they had originally rejected. Shameful, Mr. Speaker. He calls that a compromise solution. How you can get the word compromise out of that is a mystery to me and a mystery, I think, to most folks.

Binding arbitration is a part of the collective bargaining process if both parties agree. You can't just oppose it. You can't just all of a sudden say, okay folks, now the rules are off, debate has ended, you thought you were playing by these rules, sorry, wrong, bzzt. We are going to change the rules and this is the way it is going to be. Had the government decided that these were essential employees and it was going to be different rules for these employees back when they originally started to bargain, then that is a different matter, something that had to be discussed but should have been discussed with the workers; not at this point, not after 15 months of these people hammering it out at the negotiating table and these workers, Mr. Speaker, being asked to have faith. I know members opposite said, give it a chance. I know we did too. Give it a chance, things are getting better. We have the training in there, we are hopefully moving the standards to more equitably represent what is across the country. Now what we have to do is negotiate a fair way. Who ever thought it would be 15 months?

I know that we are going to be up here, as the Opposition, talking at some length in opposition to this bill but I am telling you, it makes me want to gag when I hear the former Minister of Health stand up and talk about how, we tried and we were the great ones.

If it was not so pathetic, it would be laughable, Mr. Speaker, because they had a chance. This Party here, when they were over there, had a chance and they dragged their feet and dragged their feet. Had they been elected on July 27th, what would they have done? Would they have suddenly put more money on the table and come up with a deal? Don't count on it. That having been said, they had their chance.

[1:15 p.m.]

I want to, in a second, go back to a bit of the history about where this dispute has been and what life has been like for these emergency health care workers over the past number of years in the Province of Nova Scotia, and what they have done and the contribution that they have made to this province, and how they deserve to be treated with a lot more respect than this government, this Minister of Health and this Premier is showing them. A lot more than that.

Mr. Speaker, the first point I am going to talk about is this - I will have the opportunity over the next couple of days as we debate this bill to talk about what the problem is with this government's assault on free collective bargaining in the Province of Nova Scotia - I want to talk for a second about the claims that this government is making to protect public safety. Why hasn't this government brought in changes to the Labour Standards Code that would

[Page 721]

require employers to pay overtime at one and a half times the rate, as other workers get, to stop employers from abusing their workers, making them work 60, 70, 80 hours a week?

If this government was so concerned with public safety, the people that are picked up by the paramedics, people that have worked 48 hours in a row or that have worked 65, 70, 80 hours in a week, and all of a sudden end up in an accident, if they are worried about public safety, why didn't they do something to stop that? Why wasn't one of the first things that they did in the spirit of public safety was to bring in a piece of legislation that would have made that amendment?

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health says, why didn't I introduce this? The Minister of Health, I think, missed something. On July 27th, the people of Nova Scotia bought your line, they bought your plan, they understood you had all the answers. They thought you were going to solve the problems. We are talking about what you are going to do as government. That is the issue here.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Dartmouth South seems to have a lot to say, and I look forward to him engaging in the debate. I know that paramedics in Dartmouth South would love to hear from the member for Dartmouth South. I am sure the member for Dartmouth South was going around, back during the election campaign, making all kinds of commitments to paramedics and other people about how, elect us and we will solve your problem, we will look after you. I look forward to the member for Dartmouth South getting on his feet and explaining all that during debate. (Interruptions) Here we go. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that there are paramedics in the House, because the member for Dartmouth South is getting so wound up that he may need some assistance. (Laughter) I know that there are no better people than our sisters and brothers in the gallery right now who could look after the health problems of that member.

Let me say, on the public safety issue, the minister talked about Nova Scotians needing to be able to expect that when they need an ambulance that it would be there. Absolutely. They need to make sure that the people who are attending that ambulance, the paramedics, are well trained, and they are. They need to also make sure that those paramedics haven't been working 48 hours straight, haven't been working 65 hours or 70 hours that week in the spirit of public safety, not only for those Nova Scotians who are in need of their assistance, but also for the paramedics.

Mr. Speaker, members in this House are going to get a bit of exposure to working long hours today, but imagine doing it every day and imagine being required to carry out the emergency care that these people do with those important split decisions, critical decisions, that are needed to be made on the spot when you have worked 24 hours or 48 hours at a go. That's not fair to those people, it is not fair to their families, it is not fair to Nova Scotians.

[Page 722]

It has to stop and what we should be doing is seeing a bill on labour standards and not a bill that takes away collective bargaining. (Applause)

This government does have an obligation and it does have choices to make. When the minister decided he was going to get involved in this issue, he should have gotten involved in a positive way, in a constructive way, not in a negative way, in a way that took away the rights of these workers and that treated them like children. That's what he is doing, he is saying to these workers they don't know what is in their own best interests. But he does, he knows that this is the answer. This binding arbitration that they have all rejected is in their best interests, so he is just going to make sure that they get it. In their Throne Speech the government talks about self-reliance and about people looking after themselves, but we see what happens when the going gets tough; this government is as conservative as they come, Mr. Speaker, and they are going to impose the will of the government on any individual, on any group that is trying to exercise self-reliance when they decide it is time and that's not good enough.

Mr. Speaker, who are we talking about? Who are we talking about here when we talk about paramedics? Well, I want to introduce you to a couple of people. I got a letter today from a gentleman who is a Paramedic III. As he describes it, what is the difference between a Paramedic I and a Paramedic III? A Paramedic I has 28 skills at which he or she must be proficient prior to the completion of the Paramedic I Program, including such things as: assessment of potential life-threatening emergencies; CPR; defibrillation; spinal immobilization; and the administration of five medications. The Paramedic I Program ranges from five to 10 months in duration. A Paramedic III, according to this individual, spends an additional 12 months to 24 months of education and must be proficient in not only the 28 Paramedic I skills, but as well, 36 additional skills including: EKG interpretation; endotracheal-intubation; intravenous therapy; and the administration of additional medications.

Mr. Speaker, do you know what a Paramedic I gets in the Province of Nova Scotia right now? There are different rates, but in the area of $6.50 to $7.00 an hour. What is the offer on the table for the Paramedic I - in this case somebody who works 56 hours a week - $8.10. The highest hourly rate of pay for a Paramedic III in Nova Scotia, $12.75. Under this current agreement, it will jump up to the lofty level of $15.62. Imagine what these people do, day in and day out; the pressure they are under; the stress they have to endure; the talents, the skills; the ability to make life-determining decisions on the spot. And many of them are paid under $10 an hour. Do you know what $10 an hour is annually for an average worker who works 40 hours a week? About $20,000 a year.

AN HON. MEMBER: Less than that, I think.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: That's below the poverty line in Nova Scotia.

[Page 723]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: These people are being asked to save our lives, the lives of our families, members of our community, and we think it is good enough to pay them $10 an hour? Think about it. I am serious. I ask members across the way to think about it for a second. My goodness gracious.

The working conditions are one thing and the discriminatory treatment that these people get through the Labour Standards Code. Just look at it in terms of their base wage. It is scandalous. It is a scandalous situation.

Do you know what? Back when EHC was first set up, when the decision was made to try to bring all those private operators together under one, to increase the standards, to standardize the equipment across the province, we, in this House, on all sides, told those workers that they were valued members of the health team, that they were essential members of the health team, that we were doing this in the public's interest, but in their interest also, recognizing the important part they play in that whole health care team. And we said to them, be patient, continue to work hard - because even previously a lot of those individual workers on their own hook, had developed the skills and the training that are now recognized. We said, we are going to standardize that, we are going to make sure that everyone has to do that. We are going to make the sector more professional, professionally designated, and that you will be properly compensated.

These people have been at the bargaining table for 15 months. For 15 months, that government - that Party when they were government, told them, hang in there, we are working on it, we are with you, we want to see it happen, we are doing our best. This Party, when they were over here said, these guys are moving too slow, you're not treating these workers fairly, you have got to give them a fair and a reasonable offer and you have got to resolve the dispute.

Here we are, and the first thing they do is take away their rights and they are going to impose a process on them, Mr. Speaker, that is something that they simply don't want. I cannot fathom how you can on the one hand talk to these people about the value that they have in the health care system, pay them 10 bucks an hour, 7 bucks an hour, 8 bucks an hour, 11 bucks, 12 bucks an hour, impose conditions like that on them against their will and then tell them, look, we love you, by the way - this is hurting us more than it is hurting you.

[1:30 p.m.]

Do you think these people don't miss what is going on? Once again a government is trying to keep them down; once again a government is trying to keep them in their place. These women and men we depend on to make life-determining decisions are being told to get in your place, we cannot afford to give you the money that you deserve. We think the offer that has been put on the table is good enough.

[Page 724]

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health obviously has not been listening to health care workers. He obviously has not been paying attention if he thinks that is the case, because paramedics are saying we have shown faith, we have been prepared to continue to work to meet the increased standards, to take the tests, often on our own time, in between shifts . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: At their own expense, too.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Yes, at their own expense in some cases. They have done that because they were hoping that our government, the Liberal Government before this and this government, the Tory Government, would finally put some reality to the rhetoric and begin to treat these workers fairly, responsibly, with respect, and this is the answer.

Let me tell you a little more about some of these paramedics. This paramedic is entering his tenth year. Why did he choose to be a paramedic? Because he cares, he cares about providing health and safety to his fellow citizens. While he is passionate about his work, he says it is far overdue for paramedics to receive the financial compensation they deserve, and to have a normal semblance of family life, exactly. Why shouldn't we expect these people to be able to have a semblance of family life? Just because he chose to be a paramedic, does that mean he does not get to have the same quality of life as a police officer, or as a firefighter, the same quality of life as anyone else in Nova Scotia who works a normal work week at a reasonable salary? Because he chose to help people, does that mean he has to work more hours and receive less pay?

Listen to this. You go to a fatal motor vehicle accident and someone is decapitated, or they have an arm ripped off, or their guts are literally ripped open and hanging on the seat - a worse-case-scenario, that is one patient and the other one is alive and well, but are trapped, and you spend 40 minutes with them trying to get them cut out of the vehicle. Her husband is dead next to her, or his wife is dead next to him. You know, the average person, that would make them come unstuck. Paramedics, this gentleman says, we are just expected to do it. We are certainly aware that is part of the job, but you would expect to be paid more than $7.00 for dealing with that.

Who over on this side, who over on the government benches believes that is fair? (Interruption) The Minister of Health says nobody. Well, why don't you do something about it? Why don't you put some money on the table so these people can get a fair wage? Why don't you bring in changes to the Labour Standards Code so these workers are not going to be abused by employers to work overtime, so that they will go out and they will hire additional paramedics? Why don't you do that? Change the minimum wage order, bring in some money and put it on the table. Put some money on the table.

HON. JAMES MUIR: . . . there isn't any.

[Page 725]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Oh, there isn't any. The Minister of Health says there isn't any money.

AN HON. MEMBER: Scotiabank got it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Oh, there isn't any.

AN HON. MEMBER: The call centre.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Maybe, Mr. Speaker, if they decided to play hardball -

because they are playing hardball with the paramedics - with the Sheraton, $10,000 per day penalty, they would have some money to deal with the paramedics. I wonder if anybody here knows how much the budget for Cabinet Ministers increased this year, how much? It was $200,000. There is $10,000 per day, until April that is $2.2 million . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member that he is to be speaking on the principle of bill.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Oh, I am speaking about it, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order! Order, please. I would ask the member to keep his comments to the principle of the bill.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: We are talking about paramedics, right? We are talking about the fact that this government is imposing settlement on paramedics against their will. We are talking about this government saying that a settlement cannot be reached because they don't have enough money. It is different than what the minister said before. When he introduced second reading of this bill, he said, we think we put enough money on the table. Now, when pushed, he says, we don't have enough money, we can't put any more money in. I am trying to be helpful, Mr. Speaker. I am trying to find some areas where I have seen a little bit of extra money.

The Cabinet Ministers' budget is how much? $200,000. There was $3 million to the Bank of Nova Scotia? What else? Mr. Speaker, when the government wants to find the money, they find the money. But they don't want to find the money. The Minister of Health should be clear to the paramedics that he doesn't want to find the money to make them a fair and reasonable offer, and that's the problem; $7.00 per hour, and dealing with this kind of hardship, dealing with this kind of emergency, dealing with this kind of crisis, imagine. (Interruption)

[Page 726]

The member for Preston says, how much would you pay? Pay them a fair and reasonable settlement that they will accept. Don't you get it? You have to negotiate a settlement that paramedics will accept and you have to begin to treat them with some respect for the kind of work they do. That's what the member for Preston and other members on the government benches should understand here.

I will come back to that, but I want to go on; there is a little more here that I want to mention about the conditions of these individual workers. We are going to talk a lot today, in debate on this bill, about what it is like to be a paramedic in the Province of Nova Scotia, the kind of working conditions and the kind of income that they make as a result of the dedication that they have shown in their profession. It is a profession; this government may not recognize it, they may not pay them, they may not want to treat them with the kind of respect that these people are professionals. They are professionals, they save lives, they make a difference and they deserve to be treated as such.

Here is another individual, he is from Cape Breton. I thought this was a good one, because he talked about the shifts and the difficulty in trying to survive and to have some semblance of normalcy in his life, sleep patterns and all that, the kind of work. He said if he is lucky, he may get four hours' sleep during the evening. He was talking about the particular situation where working a 24 hour shift and then being on call. He says, "'I don't sleep like you sleep when you're at home in bed, . . . there's no such thing as a sound sleep. On my last shift . . .'", listen to this, "' . . . we went out at one o'clock in the morning and didn't get back until five, after working a full day.'". He says, "'The shift before that we went out at 2 o'clock and didn't get back until 5:30 in the morning, and we were doing calls all the time we were out.' There are 48 hours between shifts . . ." in this person's ". . . 56-hour work week. That's if he doesn't have to put in any overtime.".

He says, "'After you get off a 24-hour shift, basically you'll go home and sleep the better part of the first day.'". Imagine how wound up he must be after working that kind of work, after being under that kind of pressure, how difficult it must be to get to sleep. But he says, "'After you get off a 24-hour shift, basically you'll go home and sleep the better part of the first day. Then the following day you've got to go back in for seven o'clock the next morning and you've got to be fresh when you're there so your day ends early.'". Imagine. This guy is my age, 42 years old. I can't imagine working like that. I can't imagine.

I had the opportunity to meet some of these individuals a little more close up as human beings, as members of our community when I used to put on some education courses and we used to sit down and talk a bit about what it was like to do the job that they did. I listened to these people as fathers, sons, brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, as members of the community. What always came through to me, and I used to remark about it when I would go home, was that the dedication of these women and men was unbelievable. I would go home and I would say to my wife, these people work for - in those days it was for, and this wasn't that long ago, 10 years ago - $5.00 or $6.00 an hour; sometimes they would be on

[Page 727]

call, they would be working and on call for 75 and 80 hours a week or more and you should hear them talk about their jobs. The little bit of free time they have, they are upgrading their education and their training and they are trying to learn more on all the new technology that is coming in. In those days, it wasn't always easy to get the new equipment. But the dedication these women and men had for their jobs was unbelievable. It was something that took my breath away, and they are still doing it.

I have run into a few of them outside and on the street, who I used to work with a bit more closely, 10 years ago, and our hair is a little greyer, some hair is a little shorter, but the burning desire and the commitment and the determination is still there in these people's eyes. They want to continue to do their job. They want to continue to help their fellow citizens. They are prepared to continue to put themselves on the line but they are getting tired. They are getting tired of not being treated with any respect, of being asked to go above and beyond, time and time again, for wages, Mr. Speaker, that are simply not reflective of the job they do for Nova Scotians. I think it is time that we did something better than that.

I remember when we originally set up EHC, emergency health care, when we went through part of the reform process and the regionalized health care system and what an important part of regionalized health care EHC was. Ron Stewart spent a big chunk of change on those new fancy vans and on new equipment in all of the vans and put them everywhere. There are real concerns that there aren't enough of them around to cover (Interruption) There are a lot. There is some dispute as to how much of a shortage there is but there is no question, if you talk to paramedics in some parts of rural Nova Scotia, the coverage is not good enough and that is something that we need to pay some attention to, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: There are 40 fewer.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: But all the while, emergency health care is an important part of the regionalized health system, an important part of the health care team. We talked about it here, nurses, doctors, technologists, therapists, mental health experts, emergency care workers. We talked about them with a passion, in here, about how important they were. We are doing something about it. We are bringing them all together under one umbrella. We are going to upgrade all of the collective agreements to one standard, recognize what we expect of these workers in terms of education and in terms of their work.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I feel like we have let these people down. I feel sick, as a member of this House, that we are not up here talking today about a settlement, about the fact that we have achieved a new day in the Province of Nova Scotia, where paramedics and EHC through EMC has reached an agreement which raises the standards of care across this province to reflect what is available across the country. No longer is Nova Scotia going to be second

[Page 728]

class, but we are going to recognize the level of care that our emergency health care workers provide. (Interruptions)

The Minister of Health has some nerve to be catcalling on the other side of the room about what I said and what I didn't say. The gall. I think somebody said that, maybe it was the member for Sackville-Cobequid who made some comment about this government and their level of gall. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: It was that their hypocrisy exceeds their gall.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Their hypocrisy exceeds their gall. That is it, thank you. (Interruptions) Unbelievable. You are in government now. You have an opportunity. Mr. Speaker, they have an opportunity to do something about this, and I think it is nearly time.

When was this speech done?

AN HON. MEMBER: It was done in Yarmouth.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: This was a speech done on July 26, 1999. That wasn't too long ago. That was a day before the election was held. It was entitled, Remarks on Health Care, Yarmouth Hospital, by John Hamm, Progressive Conservative. (Interruptions) This is the final day of campaigning in a 40 day election campaign, and it goes on. I think there might be something relevant in here. I will try to get to it. Oh, gee, it takes a couple of whacks at the NDP. (Interruptions) I am looking at the whacks they are taking at us.

He uses that to talk about our commitment to regional health boards and community health boards and the workers in the health care system. He uses that as a stepping-off point to say, that is not my vision of how to achieve a responsive, efficient health care system. We are seeing their vision. Their vision is to trample on the rights of an important component of those workers who play such an important role in the health care system. We see that. We see them ripping those regional health boards and putting the workers of those regional health boards in a state of panic and chaos as a result of their politically motivated agenda.

But let me get down to something here, let me see, "That is why we have committed to a clinical and financial audit of the government's contract with Emergency Health Care.". Good. Maybe the minister will find out whether the money that he thinks is put on the table is, in fact, there. It is too bad that he couldn't do that before he brought this bill in, to make sure that, in fact, the money is there, but he says, "We want our paramedics . . .", this is the Premier using the possessive word about our paramedics, right, big Daddy, right, like our children, right, " . . . to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives.". Just a second now. Wait until we get to this paragraph. Hang on. Hold your breath. "My Party . . .", I guess he means the Progressive Conservative Party, " . . . has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standard laws of this

[Page 729]

province . . .", hold on, there is more, " . . . and we will proceed with that legislation if elected as government tomorrow.". (Interruptions)

I am just going over this, Mr. Speaker, because my eyes are not that good any more. (Interruption) No, it does not help. "My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standards laws of this province - and we will proceed with that legislation if elected as government tomorrow." Who was elected on July 27th? John Hamm's Progressive Conservatives? (Interruptions)

Then he goes on and says, "Just as we made health care our number one priority in the last election - we did so throughout this campaign.". Where is the legislation? To the Minister of Labour, Mr. Speaker, where is the legislation? The Premier, the soon-to-be Premier said you already had it drafted. Did you lose it? Did you delete it from your computer? (Interruptions) Improperly filed? Did somebody put this one in its place and you meant to introduce that one but you introduced this one? This isn't April Fool's Day. Is it a Hallowe'en prank?

I think most Nova Scotians are going to be quite disappointed by what this government is doing, Mr. Speaker. The person who wrote to me made an important point in his correspondence to me. He says Emergency Health Services of Nova Scotia forced the new and improved system onto the backs of the paramedics. He said paramedics were forced to take upgrade training to ensure that they met the new standards set forth by EHSNS. They were forced to attend in-services for new pieces of equipment so they would be able to give better care to their patients.

I have talked about this before but I think this guy says it a lot more articulately than I do. They did this with open arms, grabbing at every opportunity to advance their knowledge and skill level. Some paramedics have gone to other provinces and into the U.S.A. to achieve Paramedic III training at their own expense. Now we are telling each and every one of them that they have no rights to collectively bargain to obtain fair treatment; decent wages and benefits; and the right to work a regular work week in spite of the fact that they are legally unionized and due paying members.

Public safety is what the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour and the Premier are saying this is what it is all about but, you see, it doesn't square. Because if it was all about public safety, then the government would have introduced that change to the Labour Standards Code that they talked about in the election campaign. They said the legislation was drafted. It was there, we talked about it in this House. We urged the former government to do it; they would not. This government said it would if elected. They have been elected and they don't and they haven't. Why not, Mr. Speaker? That is my question to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour and the Premier. You said you were going to, you made a promise to Nova Scotians, and you promised the paramedics. You are now in the position to do so; why have you not done it?

[Page 730]

Why is your first action on this dispute to bring in a piece of legislation that suspends collective bargaining in this province? We are concerned, Mr. Speaker. I know my time is beginning to run out here, but it is not the last. These are not the last comments I am going to have on this. So for those of you who are getting impatient, hang tough - maybe you want to go somewhere else - because I am going to have a say on this one. This is wrong. It is wrong for the people in Dartmouth South; it is wrong for all Nova Scotians. This is scandalous, that the first intervention this government makes on an issue as important as emergency health services in Nova Scotia is to suspend the right of those workers. Shame on you, I say. Shame on you for doing that. (Applause)

Not only for those paramedics, not only for those workers who trusted you, I hate to say some of them may have even voted for you on the basis of the commitment that John Hamm made back on July 26th, one day before the election, in Yarmouth. He said we have the legislation; we want you to have a fair and reasonable settlement. We are going to introduce the legislation; we have it drafted. As soon as we are elected, it is there. I am sure some people voted for this government as a consequence of that commitment. You betrayed them. So, on that basis alone, it is unconscionable, Mr. Speaker, but it also sends such a chilling message to other workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, a terribly chilling message.

There are going to be tough negotiations facing this government.

AN HON. MEMBER: Teachers are coming up.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Teachers, other public sector workers . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Nurses.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . .the nurses. They are going to have to deal with those. Is this the way they are going to deal with it? They are going to suspend collective bargaining rights. The member for Preston nods his head. I don't know if it just fell or whether he believes that is the case.

AN HON. MEMBER: He was nodding off.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: You'll have a chance. The member for Preston will have a chance to clarify anything he wants. We have a long day ahead of us. The point is, this does not set a good example; it does not send a very positive signal to workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, unless that is exactly what this government is intending to do, that they are intending to send this message: Workers of the Province of Nova Scotia beware. You know what we said about care and compassion? Gone. You know what we said about fair and reasonable settlements and about honouring the collective bargaining process. We fooled you; we were just kidding; we are now in power. We are going to show leadership is their

[Page 731]

favourite phrase. We are going to trample those rights; we are going to tell you what is the best for you because we know what is best.

Is that what is happening, Mr. Speaker? Is that what is going on? I am concerned that we are going to see a lot more of this. Maybe we will hear an answer to some of those questions as the debate continues.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: What about my question to you?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: The member for Preston has something that he wants to say over there and I am looking forward to that member getting on his feet because I think it will be illuminating.

How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker? Three minutes. I can say a couple of things in three minutes.

Mr. Speaker, there are a few other disputes going on right now in the Province of Nova Scotia where the government has been asked to intervene, to level the playing field, to try to overcome an egregious situation for workers in particular but also other employers, businesses in a particular vicinity. I am thinking of the Grand Hotel.

[2:00 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: No, that is in Yarmouth.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Yes. You see the difference is, if the province asserted itself there and tried to legislate a settlement, then they would have to deal with the employer because the employer doesn't want that. The employer wants to have their way. The employer wants to shut down the union and shut down any chance of unions in their workplace. So this government is not going to step in, in any way, on the side of the workers. That is the difference here, you see - and I think this is what we are going to see from this government - when given a choice, they are on the side opposite working people. When given the choice, Mr. Speaker, if they are going to intervene, they will intervene in a way that disadvantages the workers of the Province of Nova Scotia and that is a shame.

Somebody said to me today that the Premier, the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party talked during the election campaign about making Nova Scotia . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: A better place to do business.

[Page 732]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . a better place to do business. What about making Nova Scotia a better place to work? What about that, Mr. Speaker? Can it be the same thing? This government, I am finding increasingly, is driven more by ideology than they are anything else.

AN HON. MEMBER: Idiotology.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Some pronounce it as idiotology but I would pronounce it as ideology. The point is, it doesn't need to be this way. If this government was truly interested, was truly concerned about public safety, they would put more money on the table for the paramedics to make sure that they get a resolve and they would bring in legislation to amend the Labour Standards Code. That is a way to solve this problem. That is the way to make sure that the public safety is protected. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time is up. I would ask the honourable member just to retract an unparliamentary word he just used, idiotology. Would you please retract that?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Ideology?

MR. SPEAKER: You said idiotology.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Ideology?

MR. SPEAKER: Would you please retract that. It is unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable member to retract it. (Interruptions) Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I don't understand. Ideology?

MR. SPEAKER: You said idiotology. (Interruptions) Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I don't understand but I will withdraw it, sure. I said ideology.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member's time is up.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

I am sorry. The honourable Government House Leader. (Interruption)

[Page 733]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I am going to speak, yes, indeed I am. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, I move that the previous question be now put.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: What? No.

MR. RUSSELL: Question, put the question. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We are going to take a five minute recess and I will take it under advisement. Thank you. (Interruptions)

[2:05 p.m. The House recessed.]

[2:13 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before the recess, when the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party finished his time, I feel it was appropriate of myself at that time to recognize a government member, as it would have been their turn. Inadvertently, I didn't look in that direction and I recognized the member for Cape Breton West. I am ruling at this time that I will recognize the honourable Government House Leader. He has made a motion, and I will accept that motion. The motion is on the floor, however (Interruptions) Order, please! However, debate on second reading will continue as it has. (Interruptions)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am sorry, I am very confused as to what you are saying. Are you saying that the honourable Government House Leader's closure motion has been accepted?

MR. SPEAKER: What I am saying is, it is my understanding the motion was not to close the debate.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, are you saying, therefore, that we have the right to speak to debate the motion that the minister made? In other words, each and every one of us is entitled to stand and to speak about the travesty that is being done to democracy here today, and each and every one of us has a right to speak for one hour on the motion that the Government House Leader made.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, according to Beauchesne, I think a close look at the rules about the previous question, Page 160, Paragraph 521, I think that a reading of that would be a clear indication that we have the right to debate the motion that the Government House Leader put forward.

AN HON. MEMBER: Paragraph 522.

[Page 734]

MR. HOLM: Paragraph 522(1) where, "Members who have spoken to the main motion or amendments may speak again to the previous question. (2) The debate on the previous question is subject to closure.".

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you look at Beauchesne. I also ask, in the spirit of fairness, that the Government House Leader withdraw the motion that he put on the floor less than an hour and one-half before this debate began, a time when that member had said that we were going to be sitting today for 14 hours to debate this, this government brings forward this kind of a closure motion on something that is so crucially important and, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Government House Leader and through him to the Premier, I ask the Premier to instruct the Government House Leader to withdraw his motion that is aimed at stifling debate on this crucial issue, if there is any sense of democracy left in this place.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Liberal Party House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, as far as I am concerned, the Government House Leader tried to pull something over on us here today because we are debating second reading of Bill No. 9 today and the motion he raised was to call for a vote on second reading of this bill. That is what he called for. He said the question now be put. Those were the words, that the question now be put.

Mr. Speaker, the only time that motion can come before this House is when all honourable members have elected not to speak to second reading any more on this particular bill or any bill. You, Mr. Government House Leader, should withdraw that particular motion because honourable members in this House are not finished speaking on this bill. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am amazed that two members who have been in this House for a long time are not familiar with the previous question be now put. It has been done in this House since time immemorial to call the previous question.

AN HON. MEMBER: Done once by Richie Mann.

MR. RUSSELL: When the previous question is called, it does not stop debate. All that it prevents is dilatory amendments coming before this House. They can still make amendments in the Law Amendments Committee, they can still make amendments in Committee of the Whole House on Bills, but it prevents stalling tactics during second reading of the bill and, Mr. Speaker, I ask the question now be put.

[Page 735]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. My ruling is that I am accepting the motion put forward by the honourable Government House Leader. Debate will continue on this bill as it has.

The honourable member . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question to you, you didn't answer it earlier, the Government House Leader, in his heavy-handed way, acting obviously as the agent for the Premier and this new way of doing things - open government - has put forward a closure motion and he is correct, and I understand the rules, that he is making it so that we cannot put forward any amendments. I understand what he is trying to do but that is a form of closure.

My question to you, Mr. Speaker, is, are we then now able to debate the closure motion that the Government House Leader made? I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to look at Beauchesne again. If that requires taking another recess, then I will move that you recess the House for 10 minutes so that you can get the advice that you need. I ask that you seek advice from more than the Government House Leader.

I ask that if we are to have any kind of semblance of order in this place and any kind of respect in Nova Scotia and any kind of respect for the processes that are taking place in this House, I ask that as the barest of minimum, if you can allow that heavy-handed motion to stand, that we at least be allowed to express our displeasure for the kind of dictatorial tactics that are being imposed by the government so soon, on such a vital, credible issue, to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, to say nothing of the paramedics in this province and I think this is one of the biggest mistakes and shams that I have seen . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The vote that you are allowing to happen will, in effect, bring closure to any amendments in this House on second reading and I think that is disgraceful.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's democracy.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Democracy is no longer in this House as far as I am concerned if a motion of that kind is allowed to go. If it is allowed to go, Mr. Speaker, I would like a recorded vote and our caucus will decide what we do following that vote. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have already made the ruling in regard to the motion by the honourable Government House Leader. Debate will continue. Each member is allowed up to his one hour of debate and if he wants to spend his time talking about the motion made

[Page 736]

by the honourable Government House Leader, that's the individual's choice. There will be no vote. (Interruptions) Order, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: A recorded vote.

MR. SPEAKER: There will be no vote on this. (Interruptions) The question isn't put until the end of debate. (Interruptions)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, you cannot rule that debate continues on one motion unless a motion that was put subsequent to it, is dealt with. The member of Hants West, the Government House Leader, put a motion on the floor. We cannot go back and deal with the other motion until this amendment has been dealt with.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, you cannot go back to the original debate until the matter that the Government House Leader has brought to the floor is dealt with. Paragraph 522, Page 160 of Beauchesne, the book that we turn to, the Rule Book when our rules don't deal with an issue, states: "(1) Members who have spoken to the main motion or amendments may speak again to the previous question.". That is, if there is an amendment. What the Government House Leader has proposed, when he brought forward his motion, was really an amendment, Mr. Speaker, and therefore if you are going to allow his motion to stand, I would contend that we have a right to debate his amendment. I ask that you rule on that. I am not necessarily expecting you to be favourable unfortunately, but I am asking you to make that decision and rule on that question that I am asking. Certainly, you cannot go back and debate on the main motion because for all we know, there may be some Tory caucus members who also object to the abuse of democracy and would vote against this heavy-handed motion that was brought forward by the Government House Leader. So that would have to be dealt with before we could go anywhere else.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the object of the motion that I put was simply, as has been stated on the other side, that there be no further amendments. At the conclusion of the debate, my motion takes effect and the question is put. Do you understand? No. Okay, you continue the debate on second reading, you go right through, every member is entitled to speak for one hour. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

If I allow vote on debate at this time, we immediately afterwards will be voting on the bill on second reading.

[Page 737]

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, we will. If we allow a vote at this time, we will be voting on the bill at second reading immediately afterwards. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I suppose before I start I have to speak on a point of personal privilege. Because in all sense of fairness, in all the years that I have been in this House, I was recognized by you, Mr. Speaker, to stand, rise in my place, I was prepared to do that (Applause) and because the Government House Leader, as usual, was asleep at the switch with his political games and got caught off guard by trying to bring closure, eliminating the potential for a debate from 88 hours down to 44 hours and now potentially at best 22 hours, tell me that is democracy and tell me that my rights have not been violated. I say this is absolutely scandalous. But I will accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but these are laws, you are the Speaker, but I can tell you, I have a great problem with the democratic process that has been put forth by this government.

Mr. Speaker, the first thing I notice when I read on this particular piece of legislation, Bill No. 9, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province, is the type of language that it uses, the permissive rather than the commanding language that it uses. There has always been a general rule in this House that when you look at the clauses, clause by clause - and that is not my intent to read them clause by clause because that is not what second reading is for - but if you look at the clauses, we have 26 sections that use the word "shall". It is very commanding, it is very dictatorial in some sections, that prohibits any flexibility, any discretion for the various parties, whether it be labour or the employer to move from the contents of this bill whereas there are only three sections that use the word "may". Of course, where there should be the word "shall" is the word "may" and that is in Clause 24, where it says, "(1) The Governor in Council may make regulations". Now, if any and all sections that should have the word "shall" that is the most important one in a bill that takes away the collective bargaining rights of workers in this province.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we only have to go back and look at the Minister of Labour, who is delegated with the responsibility of ensuring a level playing field for both parties in this particular situation, he is the one who has already put safety regulations on hold that affect each and every one of the paramedics in this province, and, if you look even further in this particular piece of legislation, it rolls over the Trade Union Act. It supersedes the Trade Union Act, and it effectively eliminates any collective bargaining rights that these individuals would have under the Trade Union Act. I find that is absolutely appalling. You can see now

[Page 738]

the type of psychology and the methodology this government is using to achieve its political agenda.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable Minister of Health stood in this House on several occasions and said it was an issue of money. He said it was an issue of money when he was in Opposition; he said it was not an issue of money when he was Minister of Health; then again, in a crossfire debate with the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, he said it is a question of a lack of money. Where does the Minister of Health stand on this issue?

Even more perplexing and more concerning is the fact that the Minister of Health has continually made reference to paramedics as being an essential component to the delivery of emergency services in Nova Scotia, yet will not refer to this particular piece of legislation as essential services legislation. That is absolutely fundamental to the direction and the tone of what this government is trying to achieve.

Mr. Speaker, if, as the Minister of Health has stated, these individuals are essential to the delivery of health care services in Nova Scotia, then why are they not considered as essential services employees? But the minister has stopped short of that for a number of reasons. Number one, because it would, if included, allow them to continue with the collective bargaining process in a reasoned, somewhat limited, but a fair and equitable fashion. The government has precluded that. The very worst consideration that we, when we were in government, had was essential services legislation that would require a bare minimum, a bare level of service, to ensure the safety and the well-being of Nova Scotians.

I see the Minister of Labour catcalling in an attempt to get into the debate. He has already cut out 66 hours of debate by his actions, so I am not so sure he would want to participate any further.

The second - and I said there were a number of reasons - reason I believe that the government has taken this action rather than classify these most worthy individuals as essential servants in the health care system is money. That is the issue that the government seems to want to dance around, but never really comes out in a straightforward fashion and put the bottom line on the table and say no more money. Rather, they would use this collective bargaining process through this binding arbitration as included in it, in this particular piece of legislation, as nothing more than a sham. It is a cover-up for the real agenda of you take it or leave it. You take it or you leave it.

If, as I had suggested, the essential services approach was taken, then the opportunity for these individuals over time - that it may be - they would receive some parity and equity with their colleagues across Canada and the other provincial jurisdictions, but this is not the objective of this particular administration, and I find that is most unfortunate.

[Page 739]

The Minister of Health, when he was in Opposition, spoke so feverishly about the long-term health care services in Nova Scotia, particularly when there were a number of labour disputes at a number of long-term care nursing homes in this province, Mr. Speaker. Time in and time out, day in and day out, Opposition Members, in particular the Minister of Health when he was Community Services' Critic, demanded that the government put money on the table. We put forth at that time, to deal with that critical issue, $84 million amortized over a four-year plan. Was it perfect? No, it was not perfect, but did it develop parity within that sector? Yes, that was the objective and I believe that it will. Yet on the other hand, the Minister of Health will stand in this House and make reference to the large number of collective bargaining units in this province and do very little to address the inequity. I find that is nothing short of being hypocritical.

Mr. Speaker, this particular piece of legislation is heavy-handed, and it is short-sighted. What we see here is not only the lack of desire for this government to participate in the democratic process, it is the feeling of insecurity that it cannot cut the mustard when the heat is on. When the full flight of this debate was to hit, this government knew in its heart of hearts that it would not be able to stand up and defend the indefensible.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at a number of aspects of this particular piece of legislation, you will find it made reference to the Labour Standards Code. I do not want to digress because I want to keep it in context of this particular piece of legislation because it is very important and I understand that. That was an issue that came to my attention when I was the Minister of Labour. Unfortunately - somewhat after the fact, perhaps I should have been more aware but that is something that I will have to live with - when the issue of minimum wage and the annual review came before me, when the initial review came in, there was a recommendation - no change. I rejected that. Then a recommendation came in we will raise it five cents; I rejected that. Then it came in at 10 cents after a request for extensive consultation in industry and labour. Was it the right decision?

The interpretation of what the minimum wage is for, as opposed to how both industry and in some cases labour use it as a crutch to negotiate, in the market place, certain elements of job security, Mr. Speaker, lo and behold I always took comfort in the fact that at least we had the Occupational Health and Safety Act. I raised this with the paramedics who brought it to my attention after the minimum wage schedule was approved. I indicated quite eagerly that if they could show me some substantive data that would require me to do something before the year end, the annual review, then I would address it. I would bring it back to my colleagues. Obviously, time has run out for us as a government so you accept that, that is a fact.

Going back to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Mr. Speaker, there are provisions in there that prevent, whether it be EMC, the government, or any other employer, from forcing workers to work long and extended hours beyond their ability to do so, whether it be 60 or 70 hours. Some of them I understand work even longer and that exemption is

[Page 740]

something I will reflect on for a number of years to come because historically that exemption has always been in the minimum wage in the Labour Standards Code, the same as it is for auto sales persons and real estate persons and so on.

A lot of the historical rationale of yesterday does not apply today and I recognize that, but all the same, I took comfort because there is provision under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for these safety committees - joint management and labour committees. Unfortunately, many of the paramedics that I did speak with had indicated to me their fear of reprisal because this, in essence, was their first real collective bargaining contract with EMC, and on a global perspective. I can appreciate that, Mr. Speaker.

Then I thought well, perhaps we should also give consideration to the ADR process if all the elements of negotiation, mediation, arbitration don't work, perhaps the government - which was so very strong on the ADR process - would take that approach. The government on one hand, Mr. Speaker, is saying that it does not want to interfere with the collective bargaining process but yet, in this House by its own action, by its own vote of this House, has voted to interfere with the collective bargaining process. On Friday, October 15, 1999, on Page 349 of Hansard, the government, by its own action has decided to participate in the collective bargaining process, over and above the negotiations between EMC and the union representing the paramedics.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite simple. " . . . this government should act upon its commitment to health care by authorizing . . .", that is an order of this Legislature, which in effect is a law of this land, it becomes a law of this province, " . . . EMC to offer Nova Scotia paramedics a fair and acceptable deal.". Less than a week later the Minister of Health will rise in his place and say that we will not interfere with the collective bargaining process. What in the name of heavens are the people of Nova Scotia to think? What are the paramedics of this province to think?

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Cape Breton North, in a question last week raised some concern about the government's independence on this very issue when he suggested that if he really wanted to find out what dollars were available to be put on the table as a final offer, all he had to do was walk down the hall and ask his chief of staff. His chief of staff is the one who negotiated the deal for EMC. Talk about a conflict of interest. Now part and parcel of the same government that is bringing in a piece of legislation to stick it to the paramedics of this province. What is the value of life to this government? Minimum wage? Repressive, regressive working conditions?

We look at the piece of legislation. Talk about an uneven playing field. The Arbitration Board. Clause 6 of the bill clearly states, "(1) the Arbitration Board consists of three persons and shall be established in the following manner: (a) the Minister of Labour shall appoint the Chair of the Arbitration Board . . .". There is no independence.

[Page 741]

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this is the same Minister of Labour who has asked that we not debate this particular issue. This is the same Minister of Labour who has put the working element of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the garbage bin. We all know that the Act states the principle and essentially the law that we are dealing with. The regulations are the working component. This Act is essentially null and void, in many respects, from a minister who has delegated the responsibility of protecting the people of Nova Scotia. I think it is very counter-productive that the Minister of Labour would be appointing the chairman of this committee that imposes a condition which is binding on both parties.

Mr. Speaker, the clause to make this arbitration binding with no discussion, no debate, no consideration for either party is, as has been suggested, one of the most regressive forms of closure that this government has brought in. Its short-sightedness has boxed itself in for future actions. Future actions that I will predict will be forthcoming in the spring session of the Legislature, when it brings back another budget.

Had the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour taken the prudent and responsible action of dealing with essential services legislation, we would not be in the situation we are in here today. This is patchwork, short-term gain for the government, for EMC, but it is going to be long-term pain for this government and for the people of Nova Scotia, and not just for the paramedics at EMC. This government will have to deal with other tougher issues, certainly as commanding as this here, if their policy paper that they brought out during the recent provincial election has any validity whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, the government, in its rather lengthy platform on health for Nova Scotia entitled, John Hamm's Plan for Nova Scotia, Platforms and Policies - approximately 50 - one of the last ones clearly states that the government, a Hamm Government will, "Conduct a thorough audit of the cost and clinical outcomes of providing ground ambulance service in the province and seek advice to determine the government's legal obligations with respect to its contract with Emergency Medical Care. This is the first step in improving wages and benefits for Nova Scotia paramedics;". If that were the case, there would be very little need for this particular type of legislation.

The honourable Minister of Health has indicated that with some 600 paramedics in the province, he had one of three options. He could do nothing; I will deal with that one now. The government said that by doing nothing, I assume that the honourable minister was saying that he and his government would not interfere with the collective bargaining process, they would let the chips fall where they may, and assume that the collective bargaining process would work itself out.

[Page 742]

He also alluded to the fact that no matter what contingency plan he put in place, it would not be sufficient to deal with the health risk in the province. I can accept that, only for the fact that that is not what the Minister of Health said less than two weeks ago in this House. He said there is a contingency plan. Either he has one or he doesn't. I find that a bit concerning.

Then he indicated the second option was more dollars. Put more money into the system. Mr. Speaker, if the government is saying that the province is in such dire straits, how is it that the government was not able to meet its obligations with its $46 million commitment during the election? What changed so dramatically that they would go from $46 million to over or close to $0.25 billion on health care?

In reality, if you want to look at the $600 million that the Liberals had put into the Health Care Investment Fund and divide it up three ways - because if it was amortized over a three year period - you essentially would come up with their $46 million and the $200 million that we put in, so there is no difference. So it is a different shade on the glasses and a little bit of spin-doctoring and the government and the Minister of Health can say that it is all the Liberals' fault, but in fact I think the biggest problem they had was trying to find out how they were going to rename the Health Care Investment Fund. So the issue of more money was not an issue.

The honourable James Smith, when he was Minister of Health, addressed that, Mr. Speaker, in a rather orderly and, I think, responsible fashion in much the same way as he did with the long-term care. The $84 million amortized over a four-year period, but we don't see any evidence of that here, so that throws out option number two.

Of course, their option number three - which is, again, a contradiction in terminology - is that we have an agreeable solution to both sides; in other words, let both parties work it out. If that were the case, Mr. Speaker, why is the Minister of Health introducing this legislation? It does not make sense. If it is concern that a strike will possibly compromise the health and safety of some Nova Scotian who needs emergency service, there are other ways to do deal with it.

This short-sighted action is boxing the government in and, if I were sitting in the Minister of Health's or the Minister of Labour's position, I would not take the action that they are taking. I would have taken the long view and the reasoned approach that would still allow both parties to sit down at the table. Yes, you restrict some of the latitudes that are extended in some of the other free-market debates that go on in the collective bargaining process because of the need for that essential service, but they have precluded any and all other options for this single issue.

[Page 743]

I believe that it will come back to haunt them. It will be less than six months before it will be back to haunt them, big time, if their suggestion of harsh times in the next budget is a reality. What are they going to do with the public servants? What are they going to do with the teachers? What are they going to do with the nurses? It goes on and on.

Mr. Speaker, I think the government has wrongly given the unfair advantage to EMC. I am still concerned about the fact that we have the Premier's Chief of Staff as having been the chief negotiator for this agreement for EMC and now sitting at P & P deliberations and policy statements to articulate legislation that will essentially cut the legs from under all these workers. Now, if I were to do that in business or anything like that, the members of the government would be screaming blue murder. I have never seen anything like it, like there is no sense of shame about what this government will do to achieve its goal.

Mr. Speaker, Clauses 7, 8 and 9 of this particular piece of legislation, even on the arbitration process, it is just another way of downloading the costs onto the employer and the employees. Employees are at the bottom of the heap as it is now. Historically, in the collective bargaining process, it was a one-third split on the cost of arbitration: one-third labour; one-third management; one-third government. What they have done here is very mischievously, in Clause 9, they pick up their one-third cost, the government does, but then they charge it back: one-half to the employer and one-half to the union. So, in other words, it is one-half the employer, one-half the union for the total cost. (Interruption)

The honourable Minister of Health says, maybe we could put an amendment in. Gosh we would like to put amendments in, but the government has precluded us from doing anything. I am really puzzled as to where they are coming from. Either they want us to put amendments in or they don't. Do they want this to be a democratic process or not? Mr. Speaker, I am really confused. Well, any wonder, why wouldn't we be, because they are confused and it is their legislation.

Mr. Speaker, another very concerning clause of this bill is Clause 15(2) dealing with the issue of retroactivity, making this contract retroactive only until October 1, 1999, thereby throwing out any negotiation, any attempt for a reasonable settlement, a wage increase, reasonable benefits that would be incurred through this collective bargaining process, out the window. The government is saying, screw you guys, you are gone. The last 15 months or 16 months is dead. It's dead because the government . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: What kind of language is that? It's inappropriate.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, for lack of a better word, you are taking and taking . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to retract that please.

[Page 744]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I certainly withdraw it. It certainly wasn't meant with any malice other than to point out the fact that this government is very harsh.

AN HON. MEMBER: Devoid of any moral character.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, I certainly wouldn't go that far. I will leave the people of Nova Scotia to make that determination.

Mr. Speaker, why is the government precluding any attempt for a reasonable and fair settlement for all these workers by stating that the decision of the arbitration board with respect to wages only is retroactive to October 1, 1999? What has transpired between the time this government introduced - or if we want to roll back the clock - from the time the government contemplated this within hours of its introduction, as I understand, in a panic on the eleventh hour, the night before they introduced it, that would require such a restrictive and oppressive - well, I have to use the word attack - on these individuals because they are saying that everything that has taken place over the last 15 months to 16 months is of no consequence. Throw it out the window.

So why were we wasting taxpayers' money under the old process if the government wasn't going to even participate? What about the fees that are charged to the union, to the membership? They have to take that out of their wages, Mr. Speaker. If you look at the average pay scale here in Nova Scotia, ranging anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000, if they are lucky at the high end, compared to other jurisdictions, anywhere between $40,000 and $60,000, you are looking at, on average, $25,000 or less versus $50,000.

[3:00 p.m.]

In other jurisdictions, Mr. Speaker, paramedics are making twice as much. This is crisis management at its worst. It is crisis management orchestrated by three or four members, at best, on the government benches. It is very discouraging to come and participate in a debate when you are advised that you can only debate one-quarter of your allotted time.

Mr. Speaker, there are many aspects to this particular piece of legislation still to be addressed. If you look at the proposed spring budget that we brought in as a government relative to what the honourable Minister of Health has brought in in his budget estimates, there is relatively no difference. It is essentially maybe, what, $200,000 or less in the total difference. So it is in effect negligible, but we were prepared to deal with these wage issues on the table. Even if it went to arbitration, we were prepared to deal with that.

What has changed within the government mandate, within the Department of Health, that commands it to use its dollars in a different fashion? Perhaps the Minister of Health will have lots of opportunity - I understand he is still in his budgets, and he will have lots of opportunity - to explain the digression and why he has to be so restrictive on his budget with

[Page 745]

the paramedics here in the Province of Nova Scotia, some who have worked long and hard for many years and are just barely above minimum wage and, as some have suggested, working well below the poverty line.

How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker? I have 25 minutes. That is good, I am just getting warmed up; all members on the government side are very anxious to hear. (Interruption) I am having some coaching from the sidelines so I am going to just try to avoid the rabbit tracks.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that was always a concern in this House, raised by all members, by any particular piece of legislation, particularly as it pertained to the collective bargaining process, was the restrictive clauses that would be put into a particular piece of legislation. At the outset I made reference to the closure type language that was inserted by the government, putting all the restrictions on both these parties, or at least give the appearance of both these parties, more to the detriment of the workers.

There is not an even playing field here, Mr. Speaker, because members of that government, when I was Minister of Labour, when it came to issues of appointments to the Labour Relations Board, or the Labour Standards Tribunal, we would go through the process and there had to be objectivity. There had to be a fairly strong arm's-length relationship to ensure that independence for these quasi-judicial processes. That is why when we would make the appointments - myself, in particular, I would make appointments - there was a screening process with senior staff, who are experts.

There was also the all-Party committee of the Legislature that would vet these and by the way, the majority on that committee was Opposition members. So there were fairly strong checks and balances to ensure that we received good quality candidates to ensure so that we would get to issues such as the contract negotiations between EMC and its employees would be dealt with in a fair and equitable fashion. Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that all Opposition members that were on the committees at that time took full advantage and raised, rightfully so, their concerns. In the final analysis I felt that we ended up with an improved situation within these quasi-judicial boards within the Department of Labour.

But, Mr. Speaker, this particular piece of legislation here takes it all away. It makes a farce of these tribunals because, first and foremost the government, by its own word, is superseding the Trade Union Act. It says quite clearly, "Where there is a conflict between this Act and the Trade Union Act, this Act . . .", is an overriding Act.

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. MACKINNON: Quite clearly. So, Mr. Speaker, the government has started something, I think even something a little more dramatic. It is the thin edge of the wedge of what is to come for all these other workers within collective bargaining units across this

[Page 746]

province. It is probably one of the most right-wing agendas we will see in years and years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I know when we were in government we made our mistakes and we were held accountable. The people of Nova Scotia saw to it. But at no point in time did we only allow the members of this House an allotment of 25 per cent of their totally, legally-entitled debating time. It does not do any justice. The opportunity to be able to deal with a reasoned amendment has been taken away from members of this House to deal with such issues as the Minister of Labour's lack of objectivity, which is now legislated into this. The Ministry of Labour is not an impartial body anymore. The Minister of Labour has clearly come down on the side of the employer.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is something that, if we look very closely - just jumping back to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and how it impacts on each and every one of these individuals. It says - I am just going to read three quick lines here, Mr. Speaker, with your permission.

There is what they call an Internal Responsibility System that is built in, which, " (a) is based on the principle that (i) employers, contractors, constructors, employees and self-employed persons at a workplace, and (ii) the owner of the workplace . . .", and so on and so forth, " . . . share the responsibility for the health and safety of persons at the workplace.". Mr. Speaker, perhaps that is something that could have been dealt with through the Labour Standards Code. But, more importantly, that opportunity hadn't been lost, with the protection of this particular piece of legislation and allowing the collective bargaining process to work itself out; even at the very worst an introduction of essential services legislation would allow both parties to come to a fair and equitable agreement. The Minister of Labour, the Minister of Health and, indeed this government, have taken a very harsh measure by tipping the hand in the favour of the employer.

So, you would say, why would it do that if, by law, the Minister of Labour is supposed to be not on one side of the fence or the other, he is supposed to be there to be fair to both parties. Well, I pointed out about the Chief of Staff in the Premier's Office, who obviously has been a party in some fashion to this particular agreement, this piece of legislation, on one hand negotiating for EMC and on the other hand, bringing in legislation that limits the ability of the union to negotiate on behalf of its membership.

Secondly, the Minister of Labour has suspended the working component of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. On October 1st, those regulations after two and one-half years of a consultative process with employers and employees, all across this province, fully supported, were suspended with no notice. Boom, that's it.

[Page 747]

Thirdly, the Minister of Health has made several conflicting statements with regard to the government's position. On one hand, it says it has no money. On another day, it says it is not an issue of money. Then, on the other hand, Mr. Speaker, it says we would need more money to negotiate a fair and equitable package with the paramedics who are negotiating with EMC. So add them all up and you will see the agenda of this Conservative Government is to roll back and download on those who can least afford it.

Mr. Speaker, when I was Minister of Labour, I supported that parity within the long-term health care sector because it helped to address the inequities for those who received so little for so long. Did it solve all the problems? No, but why isn't the Minister of Health doing that with the paramedics? Why isn't he setting them off at a fairly level playing field? Even if the government had to, through the Minister of Health's budget, or indeed the Minister of Finance were to lay out a three year or four year plan that they could receive this parity or their equity with their counterparts, then perhaps these paramedics who I believe are fair and reasoned individuals - they are just trying to scrounge out a living like the next poor soul down the street to feed their family, pay the light bill, mortgage, taxes - but they can't do it . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, it's a difficult job.

MR. MACKINNON: . . . a difficult job and more. More, Mr. Speaker, because, quite honestly, I don't know if I could do that because that requires a very specialized skill and training that not all of us are adept at. They are a critical element in this health care field and we are treating them like they are second class citizens in this whole negotiating process. I think that is unconscionable, unfair. If the government members would ask themselves how many of them could survive on such wages, could pay their bills and live the lifestyles they are living today on the wages that these paramedics are forced to live on, not too many. What about the training?

[3:15 p.m.]

The government talks about a good place to live and a good environment for the people of Nova Scotia to work in. But, Mr. Speaker, this has all the elements of contradiction to what they state publicly.

This government is quite content to run the clock for the next day or two because, effectively, we have been precluded from a full-fledged debate and many of the participants who would have otherwise been allowed to voice their concerns, because anyone who has been in this House for some time will realize that people in Yarmouth, Digby, Cumberland County, Colchester or in Cape Breton don't always find out what is going on here the day that it happens. It may take a couple of days, it may take a week, and then when it hits, it is too late.

[Page 748]

It is too late under this timetable, too late under this agenda, but that is the way this government has set the tone for future deliberations in this House. Get it in, get it quickly done, and let's get out before the people find out what is going on, because we don't want people hanging around the halls expressing their opinions. We don't want people protesting out in front of the Legislature; this is not good.

Mr. Speaker, that is part of the process. That is their democratic right. We may agree with them, or we may not agree with them. Perhaps we could call this the hush-hush legislation, the first of many to come. It is just as well the workers don't say anything because their rights are taken away from them. We are overriding the very laws that are standardized through the Department of Labour, through the Ministry of Labour. We are overriding those just to achieve this one particular piece of negotiated settlement.

Mr. Speaker, I have heard it said in the last few days that the honeymoon is over for the Hamm Government. Well, if the honeymoon is over, I would hate like heck to have been the bride going on a honeymoon with that government. She would be a tough one. This legislation adds a new meaning to the phrase, a penny for the poor. A penny for the poor, because this is all you are going to hear when people think of this government. They take from the poor and they give to the rich.

Perhaps if the Minister of Health is serious, in a sense of fairness, why doesn't he tell all members of the House, what is the expected profit margin for EMC? What is it costing the taxpayer for administration fees? (Interruptions) I am very pleased that the Premier has decided to enter into this debate. I would welcome the Premier's interventions, because he can go down the hall and ask his chief of staff, what did you negotiate for them?

Mr. Speaker, we are glad to stand behind anything; right or wrong, we will be held accountable. We are not going to hide with hush-hush legislation like this government would like to stick out in the form of an Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province. Even if you read between the lines, they are essentially telling the employees of EMC; you don't quit, you don't get a job somewhere else unless you can prove under due diligence that you had a good reason for leaving and getting a job in another jurisdiction, let's say paying a half-decent wage, then we can hold you accountable if something goes wrong.

Talk about threatening those who are the least able to defend themselves. Talk about a double standard. Is this is the Tory justice that we knew, starting back in 1978 and ending up in 1993? Well, it sure seems to be moving that way.

Mr. Speaker, this arbitration board is tainted, it is tainted before it even starts because the Minister of Labour is involved in a direct way and has already stated publicly he is on one side of the issue. Their actions to the resolution in the House pushed them even further from a point of independence.

[Page 749]

Mr. Speaker, the government just says it wants to do away with collective bargaining and they are not going to do anything more for the paramedics. Why don't they just tell them all today, let them go home? At least they would have the satisfaction of knowing how regressive it is rather than dangle them day in and day out because many of the rank and file within their union have to depend on their shop stewards and their union leadership to bring back the information that is transpiring, whether it is on negotiation or indeed in the House of Assembly here, but I am sure what they have seen here today is anything but fair. It is not fair and I would like to think that, as legislators, we are fair-minded individuals. I am not sure if the government is in a rush to bring in another piece of regressive legislation, that it has a timetable somewhere else, but this defies all the laws of gravity and fairness and I think the day will come that it will regret it - in shorter fashion than the government may think.

I would like to go back, Mr. Speaker, to the government's suggestion less than two weeks ago that it had a contingency plan. The Minister of Health stated here in the House, stated to the media, that there was a contingency plan but he could not tell us what it was. Earlier he said there was no contingency plan that would be able to deal with the seriousness of the matter. It had to be done through this legislation. What type of management is going on over at the Department of Health that would lead it to bring this type of legislation before the House? I think that is unfair. It is not only unfair to the legislators but it is most unfair to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and indeed particularly unfair to the paramedics.

Mr. Speaker, not only has the Minister of Health said he was not prepared to interfere with the collective bargaining process, so has the Minister of Labour. The Minister of Labour said, no, he has to be independent. He has to be fair to both parties. Then why, Mr. Speaker, would he, as Government House Leader, support a motion for the government to direct EMC to offer paramedics a fair and acceptable deal? I mean, why would he bother doing that? Why would he not simply stand up and say, look, within the next week or so we are going to introduce a piece of legislation and bring closure to this whole thing and we are going to do it whether they like it or not. Why make a sham? Why insult people's intelligence by saying one thing and doing something different?

Mr. Speaker, I think what I find most offensive about this particular piece of legislation is the fact that the government introduced it in such a heavy-handed and short notice fashion to try and get it in, get it approved, and get out. Now, let's assume for the sake of discussion that it contemplated this concern about the collective bargaining process breaking down and a strike looming, why did they not at least introduce this several weeks ago so we could have a proper and comprehensive debate?

Mr. Speaker, I don't hear members of the government standing up and defending this legislation. It would be interesting to see the backbenchers stand up, tell their constituents why they believe this is good for Nova Scotia, and why they believe this is good for the paramedics, to have their wages frozen before they even get their first contract. It is shameful, it is absolutely shameful that this is the type of negotiation that we can expect from a

[Page 750]

government who claims to be open, accountable, fair and equitable to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I know deep down, some of these members on the government side don't agree with this, because this is not the way to go. This is not the way to go. It could have very easily been dealt with. As I suggested, the worst case scenario, essential services legislation. Again, at the risk of repeating myself, and I know my time is drawing to a close, essential services legislation would have at least recognized the professionalism, the level of expertise and the contribution that has been made by the paramedics of Nova Scotia to the health care system and to all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the government is absolutely neglecting the real issue here. It will come back to haunt them. I thank you for this opportunity to speak. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't sure I was actually going to be recognized here, I thought perhaps one of the government members would try to slide something else in. That seems to be their wont these days. I do thank you for the opportunity to speak on this bill today, and I thank you for the time that was allotted. Certainly, like other members on this side of the House, we expected somewhat more time than it appears we are going to get. I think that is a shame because democracy, although it can be a tough beast, it doesn't sit well for the democratic process when these kinds of tactics and manipulations take place in order to try and foreclose the legitimate ability of the members of this House to address the real concerns of the province.

Mr. Speaker, there are those who say that a dictatorship is a place where you can't even express a public opinion privately. Well, that is what we are getting to when we see those kinds of manipulations. Soon, what they are going to do is they just lock the doors and they will nail the edicts up on the doors outside, and then we can crawl around at night and see what it is that the government has decided. That is how they will administer the government in this province. It is a travesty when a government so early in its mandate can be so totally unimaginative, so totally uncreative that they have to undertake this kind of pathetic maneuvering to try and foreclose and forestall the legitimate debate of the members of this House. I tell you, it is a travesty. It is a complete travesty.

Part of what this bill is about is the right to bargain collectively, that is what it is really about, the right to bargain collectively. That is the principle that is at issue in this bill, in this House, at this time. This government has seen fit, in its wisdom or lack thereof, to bring forward a bill that is designed to specifically restrict the rights of individual workers in this province, in this case, paramedics. It is designed to restrict their right to bargain collectively, to decide their own future, to bargain with their employer in good faith. That is the hallmark of collective bargaining, the ability to bargain in good faith. It is certainly regrettable when

[Page 751]

you see the government move so quickly to take away what is a basic democratic right. It is Draconian.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know - and I have had cause to talk in this House about it before - about Athenian democracy, and they should know that the root of the word Draconian comes from an Athenian named Drakon who was appointed in roughly 621 BC - you can look it up, I did - to establish a code of laws promoting stability and equity and, unfortunately, what happened was it destabilized the political situation, much like legislation like this does. It is destabilizing, that is what it is. What happened in retrospect is the laws that he established were seen to be harsh, severe and, in fact, his name, which literally meant dragon or serpent, is the root of our word Draconian and it means excessively severe.

AN HON. MEMBER: Excessive.

MR. DEXTER: Excessively severe, that is right, and that is exactly what we have here. When you start to manipulate the process like you have done here today, then what you have is a Draconian procedure, one that is overly harsh, overly severe.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is essentially undemocratic. It is essentially undemocratic and the reason why it is undemocratic is because it takes away a democratic right. The right to bargain collectively is seen around the world as a basic democratic right and that is what this does, it takes it away, and it is undemocratic as opposed to being anti-democratic. What is anti-democratic is when you manipulate a process in order to forestall debate. When you evoke closure that is anti-democratic, as opposed to being undemocratic like this bill is, taking away the rights of people to bargain collectively, rights I might say that were fought for for many years . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: People died for it.

MR. DEXTER: . . . not just in this country but around the world. In this country you should know a little bit about this. If you are going to do this, if you willing to take this kind of bill, then you should know a little bit about it. In this country the labour movement and labour unions for years and years struggled to try and bring some semblance of fairness to the lives of working people. They struggled and, Mr. Speaker, it was governments across this country that took very harsh measures to restrict the rights of unions to be able to organize and to work for fair wages for people, to work for good working conditions. The governments threw up roadblocks at every turn.

For example - and I should tell you this, Mr. Speaker - there was a time when the legal entity, the corporation, did not exist. It did not exist. Every single entrepreneur out there, whenever they went out and they started an enterprise, what would happen is everything that

[Page 752]

they owned was on the line. So if you were truly an entrepreneur, when you went out and gambled, you gambled with everything you had and, if your business went bad, you lost everything. That did not seem fair to businessmen. That did not seem fair that people should have to lose everything they have if their business should go bad.

So what they did is they invented an artificial person called the corporation and this was their ability to unionize capital. What they could do is they could get money from a number of different pockets and put it into a corporation and they could reap the benefit from unionized capital so that they could use that money to be able to start whatever business that they wanted to and they knew that if it went under, the only thing they risked was what they put in the company. What they did is they limited their own liability. They limited their liability and, Mr. Speaker, when that technique was originally brought into force, the idea of a company was seen as something that only flimflam artists would use; they were considered a sham.

Why would any decent businessman use a corporation to shield themselves? What was it that was in their character, or in their background, that would not allow them to go out and put, so that people could rely on them, the front people for the corporations, why were they not allowed to do that? Why would they not do it?

So you used to have to advertise in great big letters if you had a company. You had to put incorporated on, and they had rules about how big the word actually had to be. Then, because they created artificial entities for the unionization of capital, later on people said if they can unionize their capital, why should we not be allowed to unionize our labour? Why shouldn't we be allowed to pool our labour together and negotiate collectively on behalf of all of the individuals. That's some of the background to collective bargaining. Unions bargain on behalf of their collective membership. What it does, it seeks to level the playing field between unionized capital and unionized labour so that these people can negotiate on an equal playing field, can go out and strike the best possible deal that they can for the members of their particular union.

I want to tell you that the right to bargain collectively, which is done away with for paramedics in this legislation, is jealously guarded right around the world, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that perhaps you didn't know, and I am sure that members of the government caucus may not know, but 1998 was the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights out of the United Nations. The right to bargain collectively, the principle that is attacked in this bill, is protected under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, Article 23 says that everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interest. You will find this interesting, especially with the regressive nature of this kind of legislation, it also says that everyone has the right to rest, leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

[Page 753]

The limitation of working hours, and I want to say that again, the limitation of working hours, is one of the things that is fundamental in this dispute, Mr. Speaker. It is a fundamental human right under the universal declaration. So it is ironic that we are entertaining a bill at this time that essentially seeks to do away with something that not just jurisdictions in this province, this country, but around the world - and I think people would agree that Canada by and large is seen as an enlightened democracy - and here we are entertaining a bill that is designed to take away one of the most basic human rights that people have: the right to organize, the right to protect their collective interest.

One of the things that I think is ironic about that, Mr. Speaker, is that if you go to the United Nations Human Rights website, they have a message there from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He talks about the fact that at the 50th Anniversary of this historic declaration, they have a list of what they call 50 ideas for the commemoration of the Declaration of Human Rights. One of the things that they list in their 50 or more ways that you can commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is to review legislation in order to bring it into conformity with international human rights standards and ratify international human rights treaties.

Well, I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, this certainly doesn't do that. What it does is exactly the opposite. What it does is really quite shameful because what it does is - it is designed to take away exactly the kind of right that is talked about in the international declaration. I reviewed this entire document and nowhere in it does it say that a government, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should introduce a bill that takes away that right. So, I have to say this bill is a stain on the reputation of this province. It is a stain on the good name of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Now, I have said, Mr. Speaker, that this process and the process of taking away a basic right like the right to collective bargaining is a harsh and severe thing to do and that it is not only a difficult bill to accept, but is a difficult transgression of a principle. I noticed that in the editorials, specifically in The Daily News today, the editorialist says that people recognize that paramedics are, ". . . an essential part of Nova Scotia's health-care service.". But I have got to tell you, it goes on to say that the Hamm Government is not complimentary to the paramedics when they call them an essential part of the health care service. But in fact, they say they are callous and that their actions are infuriating, and they are right. These actions, as I have said, are Draconian, they are insulting, they are infuriating, they are callous. They are not my words, these are the words of independents out there, people who do not have an axe to grind, the editorialists who are simply passing comments on the undertakings of this government at so early a stage. This is a government just newly minted, brought into existence on July 27th through the will of the people. You were elected by the will of the people and they expected from you something better than what they got from the previous government. But this is just more of the same.

[Page 754]

Let's be reminded, Mr. Speaker that this did not arise overnight. Negotiations have been going on for 15, 16 months now. Those who sat now to my right could have done something about it. They chose not to. They chose to be, somebody said obstructionist, I think. Well, obstructionist is a good word. I do not think it is quite on, but they chose to be difficult. They chose not to listen to the paramedics at that time. I do not think I would go as far as slothful, but difficult, certainly. I have to say they could have resolved the situation had they chosen to at that time and, for reasons that are completely beyond me, they decided not to.

They decided instead to engage in this shell game around some kind of a health investment plan and, in fact, unfortunately I have to say for the paramedics, they were held up like many other health care sectors, to ransom by the previous government. Because you have to remember that at that time the health investment plan was designed to try and keep people off balance and it was designed to hide money here and there so that nobody could really figure out what was going on. It was a travesty all its own, Mr. Speaker, and we spoke out loudly about it at that time and rightfully so.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, these fellows over here - I remember the member for Kings North used to say, these rascals - these rascals over here, they had all the time in the world to review what was going on with this problem and, in fact, they did. I remember, as I am sure everyone else does, and I was paying close attention earlier when the Leader of this Party talked about the words of the Premier of this province, the words of the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, on the campaign trail, when he addressed what is essentially now being dealt with in this bill.

What he said, in Yarmouth, on July 26, 1999, the day before the election, "We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives.". Well, we agreed with that. The people of Nova Scotia agreed with that. Mr. Speaker, he went on to say, "My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standard laws of this province - and we will proceed with that legislation if elected as government tomorrow.". That is what he says.

Now I understand that what he says now is that he doesn't remember saying that. He doesn't remember. Did I say that, Mr. Speaker? I don't remember saying that. Well, do you know something, I am sure if you went to Yarmouth and you talked to the people who were there, they would remember, and I am sure that the paramedics across this province who heard and who read about this speech, they remember it and they remember it today. This is not a time to have a convenient memory.

[Page 755]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member brings up a good point. When it was addressed in the House I couldn't recall when I had made those statements. I did review my schedule during the election. We made a definitive statement about the labour relations Act, although it really doesn't get us out of the quandary that we are in today. That is a matter that does not directly address the issue that we are debating here today. I want to acknowledge that I did do the research and whoever brought the point up in the House, was correct, that statement was made in Yarmouth.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Premier for his intervention and I certainly take him at his word, I continue to take him at his word. Sometimes when we stand on this side of the House people may think that we don't know much about how other people operate but I want to tell you, I had the pleasure of traveling with the Premier when he was not the Premier, under a different circumstance, and I have watched him close-up. (Interruptions) I was fortunate enough to be with him and the former Finance Minister in Ottawa around the time of the superport issue and I watched how he operated. I know that when he wants to get things done, things get done. So I look forward to this legislation coming forward, as it should.

I knew that this had happened and, in fact, I raised it in estimates with the Minister of Health. I said to the Minister of Health, at that time, you know there have been commitments made by your Premier and your Leader to the paramedics with respect to the national standards for conditions of work, for example, overtime. It was very perplexing to me because the response of the Minister of Health at that time was to say, well, you know that is not something I can deal with; I don't want to interfere; we don't want to bring it forward because we don't want to interfere with the negotiations that are presently ongoing between the paramedics and EMC. That is what they said, they don't want to interfere.

Mr. Speaker, that was just a couple of short days before they brought in the bill which we stand to speak on today. I just don't understand that. I am sure that the minister must have known, at the time, when he was telling me that he didn't want to interfere in this process that he intended to do just exactly that. (Interruptions) That is right, I will bet you, as he was speaking in this House, staff were drafting the bill that he was going to introduce. He knew. He shakes his head. He knew, that is not the question. The real question is, when did he know, not if he knew.

Mr. Speaker, it is a travesty. We, in this House, do all of this much like the paramedics have been doing. We operate on a certain amount of good faith here and when we are told something, until it has been proven to be otherwise, we believe it. I certainly believed the Minister of Health when he told me that he didn't want to interfere in those negotiations, and I have to say I was shocked - not appalled, but I was shocked - when this bill was introduced. It is, without a doubt, if not the most regressive, certainly one of the most regressive pieces of legislation that I have seen since I have been in this House. I have only been here since 1998, so perhaps it is the most regressive piece of legislation I have ever seen. There were a

[Page 756]

lot of bad things that were done by the previous government, but they didn't necessarily take the form of legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: They froze collective bargaining for three years.

MR. DEXTER: That is right. Well, you know, I hate to even engage in that, because they froze collective bargaining for a period of three years and they rolled back wages, I know that they did that. I think that is part of the problem that we have right now, because what this bill does is it sends a message to all of the other working people out there who have to negotiate collective agreements where this government is involved, it sends a message to them that no matter how and in what good faith you negotiate, you can't be trustful of those sitting across the table from you. There is nothing that will undermine and destroy the process of collective bargaining like a lack of good faith. That is just a fact.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but I would also like to bring to the attention of the government, in case they don't know it, with respect to this bill, that there is also an International Labour Organization, which was consumed by the United Nations - it was originally set up by the League of Nations - in 1945. The International Labour Organization also has ILO Convention No. 98, a convention concerning the application of the principles of the right to organize and to bargain collectively.

What happens with this bill is that Article 4 of that convention is, in my view, infringed upon by this legislation. Again, this is an unfortunate undertaking by the government because these things, like Article 4 of the ILO Convention, are an important part, when we sign on to them - which we do - of the international reputation of the country and therefore, by extension, the province.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is unfortunate when the government undertakes this kind of legislation without understanding what it means to the reputation of the province across the world. As you know, there was a time when, perhaps, people didn't pay attention or couldn't get information from one jurisdiction to another and things were slow, but that is not the case anymore.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, they can go to the Government of Nova Scotia website, and it is not bad enough that we have to deal with it here but this kind of a transgression is published for the world to see on the government website. Anybody can look it up. It is worse than legislation in many other states in the United States and certainly other provinces. (Interruption) I wasn't going to draw any comparisons to Alabama, I think that would be unfair but nonetheless, it is the road that we are on that is important.

[Page 757]

I wanted to come back just a second, I don't know if I had mentioned this before, and I see you kind of sitting forward on your seat, Mr. Speaker, and I know that you said earlier, and I want to just confirm this, that we could either speak on the principle of the bill or just on the motion that was made by the Government House Leader. Certainly, I have been taking liberties with that because I take your ruling as you put it forward.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you rely very heavily on Beauchesne when you make these decisions. Of course, for those who don't know, Arthur Beauchesne was the Clerk of the House of Commons from 1925 to 1948. One of his particular talents that people said he had as the Clerk of the House of Commons over that many years was he had the ability to look down two roads at the same time. That is what they said, he had the ability to look down two roads at the same time and select the one that would best serve democracy in Parliament. That was his particular talent. Now it was also said that he could choose the road that could best serve the government when he so chose as well.

However, I prefer to think that those of us who are dedicated to the idea of parliamentary democracy, when they choose and make rulings like you have made today, do so in the belief that you are doing that to best serve parliamentary democracy because in a parliamentary democracy, everybody has their job. The government has the job to bring forward the legislation and we, in the Opposition, have not just the right but also the obligation to look at every piece of legislation that you bring forward and to put forward every argument against it. We are the ones that your legislation is tested against and it is our job to stand up and to bring out every flaw, to bring forward every argument against the legislation that you present.

Mr. Speaker, I would say that that is what gives rise to the notion of the Loyal Opposition because the dedication here is to the democracy, to the country and despite the fact that you may not like what it is that we have to say, you may not like the idea that we are presenting alternatives to pieces of legislation that you are bringing forward, that is our job, that is our obligation. That is the one that we are engaged in here today. That is why I say it is with great regret that we see the kind of manipulation that takes place in order to close down the debate because here, in a parliamentary democracy, the only ability that we have to test your legislation is in this forum. This is how we do it. We bring forward, we take and we will, some time in the future, take this legislation apart clause by clause.

You know, Mr. Speaker, we are now engaged in the process of looking at the principle of the bill and this is one of the stages that we go through in trying to make a good law, if it is possible to make a good law out of this. Sometimes we, on this side, are stuck with trying to amend a bad law and to try to make it better. I have to say, any law that restricts the rights of people to collectively bargain, in my view, is a bad law because people should have the right to bargain collectively, to be able to negotiate for their own terms and conditions of work, to be able to deal in good faith with their employers.

[Page 758]

Mr. Speaker, the only thing we hear about in labour relations is when the process doesn't work. In the Legislature we often hear members complain about the idea that all the good stuff you do doesn't get noticed. Well, in collective bargaining, people don't notice all the collective agreements that are, in fact, negotiated fairly and concluded and how the process works, without a strike, where there is mutual respect between the employers and the employees. That is what the paramedics were asking for; they are asking for a little bit of respect.

[4:00 p.m.]

I have to tell you it is a shame when a government, through a piece of legislation, decides to bring forward a bill that takes away the ability of those people to be able to negotiate for their own best interest. You can't put any other spin on it; there is none. That is the overriding principle of this bill, to do away with collective bargaining.

Mr. Speaker, over and above what was said by the Premier on July 26th, in Yarmouth, we also have in our possession their platform - I think it was mentioned before by another member - Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. I certainly raised this on a number of occasions with the Minister of Health because it had within it commitments that were made, that were going to be undertaken by this government in their first mandate.

Part of what this clear course says is that they were going to conduct an audit of the cost and clinical outcomes of providing ground ambulance service in the province and seek advice to determine the government's legal obligations with respect to its contract with EMC. So the government members can reference it, Promise No. 74, on Page 9. It goes on to say, This is the first step in improving wages and benefits for Nova Scotia's paramedics.

Mr. Speaker, one assumes that if it is the first step, then it is the thing that you do first. I don't think that is a radical idea; the first step is the thing that you do first. So what I wondered, when I spoke to the Minister of Health about it in estimates the other day, was whether or not this had been done. Although I don't recollect exactly what he said, I think he told me that he had written to the Auditor General and that they were going to do that but they wouldn't be able to do anything with it until after the negotiations were concluded. That's just inadequate. That's totally inadequate. If you said that this was the first step that you were going to take, then you do it first.

The real problem that I have with it, if you recall, the provisions of the bill, among other things, mandates the length of time of the contract. So if you haven't carried out this audit until after the contract has been put in place, then there won't be any opportunity to amend it until the contract concludes, some three years down the line. So are paramedics going to have to wait three more years before they get the wages and benefits that they deserve, is that the message that this legislation brings forward? Is this the kind of fairness that was represented in Promise No. 74 in the platform of the now government, the Progressive

[Page 759]

Conservative Party of Nova Scotia? It is a sad commentary, Mr. Speaker, on the political process generally because what it does is it builds cynicism.

People will say - and I have heard it before - they are all the same, you can't trust anything anyone says. Well, Mr. Speaker, it really brings everybody down to a lowest common denominator situation where we are all classified as not capable of being trusted. When you bring forward and you put something in a document, you put it in writing, you post it on your website, you distribute it to people, then they expect that you are going to have the fortitude to live up to the commitments that you made. That is what they expect, and I think rightfully so.

We are here, engaged in the process of trying to impress upon the members of the government just what a difficult situation many of these paramedics live and work under. I couldn't help but notice that there is a note here that came in from a person from Liverpool, in the constituency of Queens. It happens to be a favourite of mine, I went to high school in Liverpool and know it well. The message that is written says, do all 650 paramedics have to quit their jobs in order to get you to understand how we live and work? That is the question that that person from Liverpool is asking. Then it says, just walk a day in our shoes. Walk a day in our shoes.

Mr. Speaker, that is what we are engaged in here, and why I am so angry at the idea that debate is going to be shut off because how are we supposed to get it across to the members opposite just exactly what this person is talking about if we don't have an adequate amount of time to put out all of the areas of debate, raise all of the questions. It is unfortunate that the government would take it upon themselves to limit their ability to hear from people just like this paramedic from Liverpool, Queens County.

I know that the member for Queens County is listening to this as we are speaking today. I really hope that he will take it upon himself to get up, and that we have an opportunity to hear his comments on this bill, so that he has an opportunity to respond to his constituents. It is important that they know where he stands on this as well, on this bill that essentially takes away the collective bargaining rights of 650 people in this province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hard-working Nova Scotians.

MR. DEXTER: Hard-working Nova Scotians, taxpayers, people with families in this province, people who are sometimes working 100 hours a week. I want to tell you something, you never know when you are going to see these people. You might think, I am healthy, I can make my way down to my doctor's appointments, sometimes the doctor comes to visit me, not often these days, but you never know, when you are going to have to see these people. I would like to know, would you like to see them on the 101st hour that they have been working?

[Page 760]

These people are well-trained professionals and they deserve our respect and they deserve to receive wages and benefits that recognize their worth in this system. That is what they deserve. You never know when you are going to need their assistance. I have to say - and I think I can tell you this - I know of a person, very recently, who had need to see this person, in fact, it was a former Cabinet Minister in the Progressive Conservative Government not too many years ago. There was some difficulty in his family and he had to call for the paramedics, and they showed up quickly at his house. He said he couldn't believe how incredibly professional they were in dealing with the crisis that was attendant at his house at that time. He said it gave him a great sense of relief and comfort to watch these people work because they inspired his confidence.

Mr. Speaker, these people inspire confidence for between $7.00 and $9.00 an hour. That is what they get paid and is it any wonder that they are angry about it? Is it any wonder? They are frustrated because they know what it is that they have gone through; they know how many hours of training that they have had; they know what service it is that they provide to the public, yet, all they were asking for was the right to bargain collectively with their employer to try to achieve a wage scale that fairly compensated them for the work that they did and for the training that they had.

What was the answer that they received from this government, Mr. Speaker? What was said was we cannot afford it, we like you, but we cannot afford you. That was essentially what it was. I have to say I know we are not going through this clause by clause but there is an important principle in here and one of the principles is that the government gets to appoint the arbitrator; one of the arbitrators will be appointed by the government.

The reality is that the Emergency Medical Care Incorporated draws its money predominantly from the government. So do you think that a government-appointed arbitrator can be seen as impartial in these circumstances? I do not think so. I mean they have already had to put up with the imposition through legislation, of an end to their collective bargaining rights, and now they have to stand by while a government-appointed arbitrator, the very people who took away their collective bargaining rights, makes a decision about their future. Do you think they should have any faith in that? I do not think so.

Mr. Speaker, I hear voices over there and I am sure they will rise to speak on the legislation. I certainly look forward to hearing them speak on the legislation when they take the opportunity to get on their feet and respond.

Mr. Speaker, the paramedics have a little piece out, When Seconds Count. They point out that they are, "Among the best. Nova Scotia's 650 Paramedics match or exceed national standards in training and service delivery. We are among the best Canada has to offer.". Absolutely true.

[Page 761]

Do you know what national standard they do not reach - national standards for wages. That is the one they do not reach. Do you want to know what another one is? Hours of work, that is another one that they do not get to meet because the way that the system exists now, this essential health service does not get the respect or recognition that it deserves and what this bill guarantees is that they will not.

You see there are so many paramedics out there with stories. Last night I received a call from a paramedic who talked to me in a very thoughtful manner about what his life was like working in the service. He said that he found it rewarding, that it was a life that he chose. He could have chosen to do something else, but he enjoyed the work that he did. His question was could he afford it? Could he afford to do the job that he wanted to do? How was he supposed to support his family on what he was being paid?

The sad thing about it, I have to say, is that they said well, I am not even sure that I want you to bring down the amount of overtime hours. I am not even sure I want you to do that because if you bring down the number of overtime hours and you establish a maximum number of hours that we can work, I might not be able to make enough money to support my family. So, what they do is pit the reasonable request for a decent wage against a national standard for things like overtime. They use that to try to manipulate and squeeze the paramedics into an unfair deal.

[4:15 p.m.]

Well, Mr. Speaker, the little note that was passed to me, I want to raise it again as I did with the one from Liverpool. It asked me to ask the Premier if they realized the shortage that there will be in paramedics if a fair deal is not reached, due to this bill which denies them the very basic right to collectively bargain. They make a good point.

Mr. Speaker, I see you telling me I have 10 minutes. I appreciate that because I wanted to make this point. What I think this person is trying to tell us is that they can just leave the province and go somewhere else, where they will get some respect and where what they do will be recognized. So they can go and receive what they require in order to properly care and provide for their families and you can't blame them.

What will happen is then we will create a real crisis. It goes back to what I said at the very beginning of my speech when I used the little example about Draconian and Drakon and the laws of 621 BC and how it destabilized the political situation when they brought in these severe and harsh laws. That is exactly what this person is saying, that these kinds of laws move to not only disenfranchise people and take away a basic human right, but what it does is it actually destabilizes the political situation. Obviously that would be extremely unfortunate.

[Page 762]

Now there are a few points I specifically wanted to make. By the way, Mr. Speaker, I should mention that the good work done by these paramedics is routinely bragged about on the EHS website. They talk about the work they do and the lifesaving undertakings they have. It is not enough just to brag about your employees. I know all employees love to be recognized for the good things they do but the most tangible form of respect and recognition you can give to them is to give them money in their pay packets so that at the end of every week, when they open it, they know that you recognize the valuable service they provide. That is the sincerest form of respect, being paid what you are worth.

You know, Mr. Speaker, when this bill was introduced the Minister of Health made a number of statements about it and he talked at some length. I was pleased to receive a copy of his comments. At that time he said that employees are entitled to a fair and reasonable contract. That is true, I believe that to be true. They are also entitled to bargain for a fair and reasonable contract. Perhaps that is lost on the minister. Perhaps he doesn't understand that part of reaching a fair and reasonable settlement is the process that you go through. It is not just the destination, it is also the journey. That is what collective bargaining is all about.

The minister said he doesn't have any other option, this is all about public safety. Well, Mr. Speaker, there was another clear option and all he had to do was instruct EMC Inc. to make a fair and reasonable offer, to put forward better wages and benefits for the paramedics, just as the Premier in his speech alluded to. That was an option. It wasn't explored. It wasn't done.

Mr. Speaker, they could have taken a more balanced approach to this. They could have repealed the legislation that lets the government, through EMC, get away without the overtime costs. I recognize the government's dilemma here because the reality is, this is ultimately going to cost the government money. That is what it is going to do.

Mr. Speaker, one of the questions that immediately pops into my mind is if this is all about public safety, then why is this bill just retroactive to October 1st? Why does it include that? What about the people who have been without a collective agreement for 15 months? So there would be no recognition for those people, certainly no monetary recognition for the fact that they have been without a collective agreement in that period.

I see the Premier pointing to the members to my right, and I agree that they should have done something about it, but the reality is, if I may quote the Minister of Justice when he was a member of the Opposition, when you became the government, it became your responsibility. You don't get off the hook by saying that the former government ought to have done something.

If you want to be fair to these people, then I would suggest that one of the first things you can do to try to be fair to these people is to build in some recognition that there are unionized employees out there who have been without a contract for 15 months, which in the

[Page 763]

normal course of things they would have concluded negotiations and they would be at a different wage scale. There has to be some recognition of that position before this legislation passes, if it must, Mr. Speaker.

My point in all of this, is it isn't just all about safety, is it? It really isn't. It is, at least in part, about money. What is it? It is about money for the government; what is it going to cost them? Quite frankly, it is about money from the position of the paramedics at this point in time because they know that they deserve a better wage and benefit package and that is what they are asking for.

I go back, Mr. Speaker, to the whole idea that bringing in a piece of legislation like this, at this point, one of the first things that a government does, is so stale, so unimaginative for a government (Interruption) Wasn't it the Minister of Transportation who said, these people have to learn to think outside the box? Well, if there was ever in-the-box thinking, it is this kind of legislation because it is absolutely stale and unimaginative.

One of the things that this government complained about with the past government was they didn't have any vision. Well, certainly vision isn't going back to the Buchanan years. It is not going back 10 years to when we saw this kind of legislation on a routine basis when the rights of workers across this province were routinely trampled on and the foyer out there, the streets around this building, were constantly clamouring with people who were offended by the operation of the government, through one piece of legislation or another, until they were finally thrown out in 1993. (Interruption) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I certainly appreciate you telling me that there are just a couple of minutes left.

I wanted to point out that this government had promised an open, fair approach, that is what they said, Mr. Speaker, that they were going to have a fair approach to the negotiation of collective agreement with all of its employees. Well, this is neither fair nor open. And in fact, what it is is, it is arbitrary and it is one-sided and it is wrong - W-R-O-N-G - wrong.

AN HON. MEMBER: Good stuff.

MR. DEXTER: Didn't think I could spell that, did you? Just dead wrong, that is what it is. Mr. Speaker, if they were going to do something, you know what they ought to do? What they ought to do is, they ought to withdraw or suspend the debate on this bill and they ought to do what they promised. That is what they ought to do. That would be what is right in these circumstances.

Before I sit down, Mr. Speaker, I am just going to implore them to do the right thing; withdraw or suspend debate on this bill and do what you promised in the first place, a fair and reasonable settlement to the paramedics who deserve. (Applause)

[Page 764]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak on this legislation. I want to say to the Premier and the Minister of Health how times have changed with a majority government. When we were government in a minority government, if Charlie changed the menu without notifying the Progressive Conservative Party, there would be faces as long as all outdoors. Here now we have this significant piece of legislation that was brought in after days of examining the Minister of Health about his contingency plan, about how the negotiations were going. Going well, he said. Did he have a contingency plan? Yes. I guess, Mr. Speaker, this is the contingency plan.

After the Minister of Health said in Truro that he would not interfere with the negotiations, we have this. After the Premier said in his campaign literature that before there was a settlement with the paramedics, the government had to determine its legal obligations. Is this what the Premier considers his legal obligations; to bring in back to work legislation at that particular time.

Now I think that all of us would agree that ambulance service is essential. But no one in this House has any idea as to what these people in the paramedic and the ambulance service would have provided if they had gone on strike. I do not believe that they would have just cancelled all service, regardless of the seriousness of the situation. I do not believe that. I do not believe there would not have been a contingency service, but we will never know because the government has not allowed them to speak. Has cancelled their negotiation and cut off the collective bargaining procedure. (Interruption) Yes, you have, and this is not collective bargaining.

To call this a collective agreement is an absolute travesty. This cannot be considered, in any sense of the word, a collective agreement. The paramedics are stuck with this travesty until March 31, 2002. And you in the government are saying that this is negotiated. How can it possibly be negotiated when you say in Clause 6 that, "(a) the Minister of Labour shall appoint the Chair . . .". And then the union will have their nominee and the employer will have their nominee. Well, the government and employer have two nominees, the chairman and one of the other panellists. There is no question that the fix is in. There is not going to be constructive collective bargaining in this situation.

Anytime you have an arbitration panel, each side picks a nominee and then the two sides agree on a chairperson. That is the way it is done. That is the fair way to do it. To say that this is going to be done in the form of a collective agreement is, as I have said, an absolute travesty. It can't possibly be. It is going to be a pre-ordained settlement on the paramedics and for the ambulance service in Nova Scotia. I think that that is absolutely wrong.

[Page 765]

[4:30 p.m.]

Also, in addition, Mr. Speaker, the government has compounded and added salt to the wounds of the union by saying that they have to pay one-half of the costs of the chairperson, one-half of the costs of the chairperson that will be nominated by the Minister of Labour. If the Minister of Labour wants his chairperson on this arbitration panel, he should pay the costs of the chairperson. Don't impose one-half of the costs on the paramedics. That person is not their choice. The reason that, normally, both sides pay one-half the costs of the chairperson is because both sides have a say in who the chairperson is going to be. In this case, that is not going to be the case.

This piece of legislation, and I have just read it for the first time, is flawed. I take great exception to the Minister of Labour putting closure on this bill and not allowing amendments, because if there are drafting problems here, that could be addressed quite easily. Just as one example, I don't want to go over the whole bill, but I just want to mention one example and that is in Clause 5(4). Clause 5 (1) says, "On the coming into force of this Act,", and then Clause 5(4) says, "No employee shall, without lawful excuse, fail to continue or resume the duties of the employee's employment with the Employer.".

Now what is a lawful excuse? If there is sexual harassment, does somebody have to prove lawful excuse before they are allowed to leave the service? Also, there could be leaving the service without lawful excuse for reasons other than this labour negotiation situation. This agreement goes to March 31, 2002. You are locking a person in from leaving the ambulance service, without lawful excuse, from now until March 31, 2002. What are you going to sue these people for? Everybody has the right to leave a job if they want to leave a job. These people cannot now, in my opinion, leave the job. I am telling you, this is a serious point.

I also want to say to the Minister of Health that what he has done here is taken a very promising ambulance service, one of the best in North America, no question, where we have a lot of good, young people who saw a career for themselves in the ambulance service. A lot of these people are not from Nova Scotia. They have come to Nova Scotia to be a part of this ambulance service and, in many cases, sure, they would go back to their own provinces when their provinces had an ambulance service that was up to the standard of Nova Scotia, but that would be their choice. They came here because they saw that this ambulance service is the best in Canada and in the top five in North America, top five in North America by experts throughout North America.

The fact of the matter is that they wanted to be a part of it. They are first level paramedics right now. It was the hope of the former government that they would all continue until they received their third level. That is what we wanted to do. We were prepared to pay them to keep them in the service so we could have the best, most competent paramedics and ambulance service attendants in this province or in North America. We wanted them to stay so that they would be there to obtain, study for and achieve their third level. How many of

[Page 766]

them are now going to stay, after having been treated like this? How many of them are going to stay to get that third level? A lot of these people will go back to their own province and others will go to other jurisdictions, based on the training that they have received here, hoping to get a better deal in those other jurisdictions.

That is going to be the legacy of this legislation, that we will have the service on paper, we will have the ambulances, we will have the 911 system, but we won't have the quality of the people in service of our ambulances in the Province of Nova Scotia, and that should have been thought out very carefully before this legislation was brought in.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that what you are saying? Are you saying you don't have quality now?

MR. MACLELLAN: You have quality now. You have extremely good quality, but how are you going to be able to maintain that quality, Mr. Speaker? The Minister of Health sees no connection between sticking this legislation in the ears of every one of these people in the ambulance service and the fact that they may not like it to the extent that they may not want to stay in Nova Scotia and complete their third level, so that we will have the benefit not only of their experience, but of what we have put into training them thus far. You treat people fairly and they will treat you fairly in return. This government has not treated these people fairly.

Now I would like to say to this government, look, we want to maintain the health of the people of Nova Scotia. Be absolutely sure that if the service is needed, it would be provided. I personally believe it would have been provided; I honestly believe that that would have been arranged. Had this been discussed with the paramedics, they would have agreed to maintain a permanent ambulance service for emergency situations.

I want to say, too, to the Minister of Health who has rushed into this - it couldn't wait, down in the starter's blocks with this piece of legislation in his hand, can I do it today or will that seem too opportunistic? Maybe if I wait and introduce it on Friday, that won't seem too opportunistic - I want to say to the Minister of Health and to the Premier that they have missed the whole point of the collective bargaining procedure.

This has gone on certainly for 15 months, it is the first contract. First contracts are difficult to obtain. There is no question about that because everything has to be done from scratch. We know that and that is why it takes a little longer. I want to say to the Premier, and I want to say to the NDP who use the name of the former Liberal Government in vain, (Interruptions) that on October 31, 1997, the former Liberal Government - I was Premier - faced the expiry of 50,000 civil servants' contracts ending at that particular day. Fifty thousand expiring on October 31, 1997. All of those contracts for all of those civil servants were renegotiated. There were only a few labour disruptions at the long-term care facilities. As a former Minister of Health and the member for Dartmouth East mentioned, we were

[Page 767]

thinking about back-to-work legislation. We didn't use it; we let the process work. Those 41 homes of long-term care were settled. The employees received substantial increases, maybe not as much as they thought they deserved, but fair settlements. All of the provincial employees signed contracts. There was not one incident of any back-to-work legislation; there was not one incident of cancelling negotiations before the term was completed; and there was not one incident of breaking faith with the people with whom we were negotiating.

I want to say to this government that this is a very serious breach because of what it does to the future of the ambulance service. I think the safety of the people of Nova Scotia has to be protected. I don't disagree with that, but I don't think that anyone has any idea that the safety of the people of Nova Scotia would have been impaired had this been allowed to go on for a few more days.

The Minister of Health kept saying that this wasn't the government's affair, this was the responsibility of Emergency Medical Care. Well, I mean the government certainly has made it their affair right now, has certainly made it their responsibility right now. I want to say, too, that this is something that I think is a harbinger of what is going to come. If this is how the government is going to treat the paramedics, how are the other people whose contracts are going to be renegotiated be treated by this government? How is the government going to look at this process in the future?

I think the one thing that bothers me the most with the way this bill has been drafted by the Minister of Labour appointing the chairperson, as well as the employer appointing a nominee and the union appointing a nominee, is that the government has the assurance that they will get what they want and there won't be a negotiation. The government will get what they want, they will superimpose on this. What they are doing is giving the opinion to everyone in the Province of Nova Scotia that this isn't to protect the health and the service to people who need ambulance service in Nova Scotia, this is to superimpose on paramedics an agreement the government wants to give them. I think that is the main travesty in this, in the way this bill is stated, the way it has been brought forward and the way we all imagine this is going to unfold.

If this was to be a fair arbitration panel, then it should be fair on both sides. There shouldn't be two representatives, essentially, of the government side. There should be an impartial chairperson who would give the paramedics a fair chance.

Certainly there is disagreement. I am not saying that everything the paramedics would want in salary or benefits is something the province can do, I am not saying that at all. I don't think anybody is saying that. All we are saying is let the process work; let the process unfold; let's have a fair process where we can hear what both sides are saying and the points both sides want to make.

[Page 768]

I don't know, frankly, what paramedics in other provinces get. I would say we would have to look at the paramedics in relation, of course, to the service they provide. Are they as good? Are they as qualified? Have they as good an ambulance service? Do we demand as much of the paramedics in other provinces as we do in Nova Scotia?

We set up, as a Liberal Government, the best ambulance service in Canada. Now you can say that you don't have the money to pay these people but I am telling you, quality comes with a price. I am not saying that you have to give everything the other side wants but if you are going to have the best ambulance service in Canada, you have to pay them accordingly. That is the only way we can maintain the service.

If you don't want the best ambulance service, then you have gone about it the right way. If you want to downgrade the ambulance service and you are saying that this ambulance service is too rich, it is too good, it is a Cadillac ambulance service, we can't afford it for the people of Nova Scotia, then you have gone about it the right way. Then you are going to have a Volkswagen Beetle or something else much smaller, and I am not sure it is even going to be that.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that what the government has decided is they don't want the service. They don't want these people to stay, to be trained for Level III, they don't want them to continue in the employ of the Province of Nova Scotia. They don't want that higher level of expertise that proceeding from Level I to Level II to Level III will give us in this province.

I think we have to look at the whole package. I think we have to ask, where do we go from here? The bill states that EMC has the right to continue negotiations and the union has the right to continue negotiations. The best settlements, I have found, in labour difficulties are achieved at the tenth or eleventh hour. What incentive is there for the union to negotiate now, between now and Friday? What incentive is there? You have taken away any incentive at all for them to negotiate.

I would ask the government, I would tell the government unequivocally, right now, to tell these people that there will be open and free negotiation, that there will not be any kind of curtailment, that you want as good a settlement as can be achieved between now and Friday night. I don't know if they are going to believe the government, Mr. Speaker, even if the government says I think it is vitally important that we continue the collective bargaining process right up to the eleventh hour and to the twelfth hour. I think it is absolutely vital for the reasons I have stated. We stand to lose too much if we don't have a freely negotiated settlement.

[Page 769]

[4:45 p.m.]

I want the Minister of Labour to go out there and to get the process going, to be involved in it himself, to make sure that there is every effort put in to a good collective agreement between now and Friday. I don't want, even if he passes this, which I hope he doesn't, even if he does pass this, I want him to say, I am putting this aside and I am going to act from now until Friday like there is no legislation, that I am going to do everything I possibly can to be fair with these paramedics, and I am going to stay up until 2:00 o'clock in the morning if I have to, have my representatives and negotiators meet around the clock.

Don't hide behind the cloak of EMC. Get the government involved to make sure a settlement is agreed. That has to be, for the government to (Interruptions) If they are at it, the way they have been at it before without the Minister of Health knowing anything about it, with the mañana attitude that has gone on, without anybody knowing what was going on, except for maybe two or three, with the government just saying, look, don't tell me, I don't want to know because if I know, I may become implicated, that is not good enough.

There has to be a more sincere effort to negotiate and to reach an agreement. If the government doesn't then they have created a bad precedent, we are back to the suspicions of yesterday with respect to organized labour vis-a-vis the government of this province, and we will have lost a major initiative, because no way will anyone in organized labour trust this government, and it will be years before they trust any government again.

This cannot be allowed to go on. Something has to be brought forward. I would say that, to me, I thought that something could be done in the process, in the House or within the framework where we could all work together. This is the Premier who wanted to work together. All of a sudden, he doesn't want to work together, he wants to work unilaterally to sabotage the contract negotiations of the paramedics.

There has to be some means of doing that. Now we have closure where no amendments can be brought in. I must say that my concern is of major proportions. I say that I think the safety of the people of Nova Scotia has to be addressed but I am not convinced that it hasn't been or wouldn't be. I think that this piece of legislation has been brought forward, not to address the safety of the people of Nova Scotia but to superimpose the government's offer on the paramedics and in the ambulance service in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think it is setting a terrible precedent for where we are going in the contracts that are going to be negotiated in the months ahead.

I would hope that the government would rethink what it has done, would perhaps try to cooperate with others in the House and would do everything it possibly can. Put this aside from now until Friday at the very least and do what they absolutely can to reach a free and open collective agreement. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 770]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place this afternoon, and I can say that I don't do it with a lot of pride, I don't do it with a lot of honour to the degree of what we have ahead of us. This past weekend, I heard from a number of people, past students, constituents, people who are in this business of paramedics. On Saturday, if you remember, I don't know what it was like in your particular area that day but it was a rainy blustery day, and I was visiting a constituent down in the community of Dover. On the way home, I had the occasion, just out of force of habit, to drop into Peggy's Cove.

I bring it up because I want to set the tone for how we take these people for granted incident after incident. Then I remember that fateful day and that fateful evening when, of course, we had to confront the emergency services that had to be provided when Swissair came down. My passenger and I took the opportunity to go up onto Whaleback and to have a look in the middle of the wind and the rain and how the terrifying ocean at times can bring us to reality. I remember those days, I remember the volunteers and I remember the paramedics that responded from all over this province. Responded in a way that we all said we were so proud of, that news agencies throughout the world interviewed these people, talked to them at length, and they so professionally went about their job. It truly is unfortunate that we have to have an incident like that before we begin to take for granted the wonderful services that these paramedics offer us.

Now this piece of legislation in which these people have been so patient to negotiate, Mr. Speaker - and Mr. Minister of Health and Mr. Minister of Labour - for 15 months these people have gone through the professional collective bargaining process and then the hammer is dropped. The hammer is dropped. Why? Either impatience or because of the fact that the safety of Nova Scotians is at stake? I say there is much more at stake here than this.

Mr. Speaker, this past week I had the occasion, to go back to my old school, actually I should not call it my old school, the community's old school. It was career day and I saw some of the people that these young students were looking forward to going to speak to and listen to. One of the most popular people during this career day has traditionally been paramedics, because of the fact that they play a prominent role in the community that I am privileged to represent. Paramedics, the young people could say, that is something I might be interested in doing.

During the session that I had - and incidentally it was a career day on why you want to become an MLA - one of the questions these young people always bring up, and the member for Sackville-Cobequid knows it well; how much do you make? I mean if we teach anything to young people these days, they know how to get to the bottom line - am I going to be paid what it is worth?

[Page 771]

During the recess that day I had the occasion to talk to a young person who had been in to hear the paramedic speak. I did not know this piece of legislation was being brought up at this time, but I have friends and have past students who are in this business, and this young man said to me - and he called them, unfortunately, ambulance drivers, and I think that is because of past references and so on - do you know that I was interested in becoming an ambulance driver? I said, the paramedics? He said, yes, then I found out what they made; he said I do not want a job like that.

I can see why young people with a career on their mind would they consider this type of career; maybe because they see a prominent role model in the community; maybe because of the fact they want to serve their community; maybe because they realize that is an important position, that it saved a family member's life, a friend's life, or they have seen them in operation before. But young people are not going to pursue this career unless it is a career that is properly paid for, with benefits, with overtime, with wages that are attractive, that people can make a living on.

I heard my Leader speak earlier about the fact that the average wage in the run of a year could perhaps total $20,000 as a paramedic. I have heard the member for Dartmouth North, who has told me - and I understand this is a fact - that it is below the poverty rate in this province. There is no excuse for that rate of pay.

There is no excuse when young people, young men and women on career day, interested in going into this particular profession and then saying to themselves, why would I go in that direction, why would I possibly think of that when I can't even make a decent wage? Then, if any of those young people are following the news, and if they are aware of the negotiation process and of the fact that they are represented in union fashion, why would they want to become part of a profession whose negotiation rights are stopped immediately because of a piece of legislation such as this? Young people are not going to turn to being paramedics in this province if this is the way collective bargaining is taken care of.

The Minister of Health said there was no need to interfere. Those were his words. I have known the Minister of Health. I knew him in a previous career so it was with much surprise that I realized what happened. Did the Minister of Health get up on the wrong side of bed that day and say, I am not going to take it anymore? I am going to come in and I am going to have this legislation introduced. If there was no need to interfere on Tuesday of last week, what was the reason, on Friday, for this piece of legislation described by my good friend, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, as a Draconian measure? That seems to me to be quite a flip-flop.

I heard the previous Premier speak and I must say that when legislation was going on with civil servants at that time and that deadline was there that the Premier at that time and that government had to strive to match, they did not. The Premier of the time, the Leader of the Liberal Party, said in his comments earlier, he did not consider. Oh, he considered and

[Page 772]

then said, forget that. We have faith, do we not, in the collective bargaining process in this province? If we have faith, Mr. Speaker, and these people as professionals have faith in the system, then we must let it work its way through.

I heard at one time comments about a contingency plan. Those things will be taken care of. I think this government suddenly, Mr. Speaker, was in a situation where they had no contingency plan. Therefore the pressure was put on this Minister of Health to eat his words and to say this past Friday, I have to introduce this legislation, and that is truly unfortunate, I say to this Minister of Health. This is a dangerous precedent because there are people in the profession that I am a member of, a practising member of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, who are probably thinking, are we next? If things don't go along as this government wishes during the collective bargaining process and it is coming down to the deadline, and the negotiations are going on, suddenly the hammer is going to fall. Is it going to fall on teachers, nurses? That dangerous precedent is of a real concern.

I want to remind the Minister of Health that on Saturday, September 18th, there was a march on his constituency office in the constituency of Truro-Bible Hill. I had the privilege, Mr. Speaker, of accompanying a couple of hundred of the paramedics who from throughout Nova Scotia arranged their schedules, as difficult as that is in their business, to make sure that they could march through the streets of Truro to the Minister of Health's constituency office.

To the Minister of Health's credit, he was there. He met them and he spoke to them, unfortunately, with a bull horn, which was not the best way at the time and that was provided for the Minister of Health. One of the key words - and my memory doesn't fail me on this, because I said later that afternoon when people asked me why did I go to Truro that Saturday, because the Minister of Health said to the paramedics - I am going to listen. That was the word he used that day, Mr. Speaker. He was going to listen, and he has not been listening. He was going to listen he said.

[5:00 p.m.]

When I returned from that trip, I had the occasion that evening to be at a social event with a number of people in the community and they were asking me what this job is all about these days, and I told them that I was in Truro and I was there with paramedics and that I had learned a number of things.

I met one of my past students during that walk. I had the occasion, Mr. Speaker, to walk along with him for a period of time, and it very quickly became evident to me that he has been a paramedic for over 18 years. I guess he was an ambulance driver for awhile and now he is a paramedic, right? When he graduated from Sir John A. Macdonald High School, he worked in the local fire department. He went for the training. He worked with Ron Walker in Hubbards. He became the ambulance driver, then he went for those other courses, the PI and the PII and he became a paramedic.

[Page 773]

During that walk, during that march with my placard, I had the occasion to ask Stephen Flemming a few questions. Mr. Speaker, it always comes down to dollars. Maybe that is the teacher in me coming out, but finally I had to ask him, Stephen, what do you make at this job? He told me that he has been a paramedic - and I think he is currently stationed down in Ecum Secum somewhere, down on the shore - and he told me that he just barely made $9.00 an hour. Someone who has been in that business for 18 long years, and during those years I know he has helped out. He helped out in the community of which I am a member and I know that he continues to service the community down on shore.

I asked the member for Eastern Shore to check that out, to make sure that when the time comes for debate that you speak up for that constituent, and that you ask if you were in that business for 18 years, would you still just want to make $9.00 an hour? That seems to me not to be much of a future. That young man loves that profession. He does not want to have to go to another province, but he knows that by going to another province, he can perhaps make much better money.

Since this debate began, I took the occasion to call that good friend of mine from Yarmouth - the past member for Yarmouth, who works in the health profession - I called John Deveau and asked him, where were you on July 26th, John? Well, aside from that fact that it was my birthday that day, this birthday present which I heard today, and John Deveau reminded me of again, will not be forgotten.

When the Premier, the Premier now, and the Leader of the PCs at that time, said, "My Party", and I know he is probably getting sick of hearing it, but I want it on the record so my good friend, the past MLA for Yarmouth could say, yes, there were people in Yarmouth who listened to that comment, who heard it on the Yarmouth radio station and who probably voted for that member over there because there was going to be, as it says here, "has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standard laws of this province.". Them being the paramedics. So I am looking forward to hearing from the member for Yarmouth, who probably was present when this speech was made, I am looking for the member for Yarmouth to stand and speak in support of the paramedics who have these concerns. If there was legislation coming forward, let's hear it.

You are sitting there as members of this government, and you have a responsibility to represent your constituents. Whether it is the member for Eastern Shore and my past student who works in his area, or whether it is the member for Yarmouth who probably was present on July 26th to hear this, I would like to hear these members speak about this piece of legislation because, in the short time that I have been in this House, it seems to me - and there are members here with much more experience than I have, and my experience, whether it is high school model Parliaments, or whether it is the short time I have been in this House - this sort of legislation cuts debate off and makes us, as MLAs, go through to a 2:00 a.m. deadline. We can do it and we will do it again tomorrow, whatever those deadlines are, but is that how democracy is supposed to work?

[Page 774]

What happens to Law Amendments? I look forward to the five members who serve on the Law Amendments Committee with me and my good friend for Halifax Chebucto, I look forward to hearing what they are going to ask in the Law Amendments Committee. This bill is going to go into the Red Chamber and we are going to have an opportunity, I hope, unless in some way the House Leader brings something in that the Law Amendments Committee is not part of this process. Then, Mr. Speaker, we are going to hear presentations - I hope we hear presentations from people who are going to express concerns about this legislation.

Now maybe the Law Amendments Committee might be called at 3:00 a.m., through some particular hook or crook, and we will have to see who is going to arrive there, but I would like to see exactly what those five members who are members of the Law Amendments Committee are going to ask. I hope they have the sort of insight that I had when I went through the Law Amendments Committee and I saw Bill No. 90 and all the various difficulties that we had to go through at that time.

That is part of the process. That is part of democracy in Nova Scotia - a full debate, an open debate with no time constraints - the Law Amendments Committee so that the public and members of pressure groups will have an opportunity to appear before the Law Amendments Committee to have their say, to persuade us as legislators of the pros and cons of this piece of legislation and other pieces of legislation.

One of the calls I received this weekend was from a paramedic who had just got off his shift. It was early in the morning but he said he waited until 8:00 a.m. to give me a call. On Sunday at 8:00 a.m. I must admit I was up - I had to check to see how the Mount Allison Mounties did so the sports page was open. When the call came this young man told me he had just finished a 24 hour shift. I said, well, let me get my contacts in here so I can make a few notes, I want to get this down so that I know exactly what I am talking about. He told me that through his shift, which had begun at 6:00 a.m. the previous day until 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, that he had a chance to get a two hour catnap, he called it - from midnight to 2:00 a.m. that early Sunday morning, this young man had a chance for two hours sleep. During the rest of those 22 hours, Mr. Speaker, as he said, I was constantly on the go; my partner and I never stopped.

Now I am thinking that that young man has the dedication to continue in this profession when he had two hours to catch up on his sleep. Of course in my community they sleep right in the truck. They move the truck around to various places in the community. I must admit they stop into the local coffee shop on a lot of occasions but you see them sitting and waiting. This particular night, obviously this young man and his partner were busy.

I want to point out for members present what Paramedic I, II and III training is all about. A Paramedic I has up to seven months in training, depending on the school and on the course; a Paramedic II has two additional months training and a Paramedic III has to have another 18 months of training.

[Page 775]

These Paramedic III's are qualified. I have been given an example of their responsibilities. I certainly can table this for members present. I didn't know all these things. I was asked to introduce some of these things. If it is proper, Mr. Speaker, I would like to table this in just a moment. This is an example of some of the responsibilities, some of the scope that these various three levels of paramedics have to produce and some of the medication they are allowed to prescribe.

Mr. Speaker, I want members to look at this. This is responsibility that is much more than the money they are being paid.

This young man I was speaking about earlier, prior to his training as a paramedic, was a bartender. He received a better rate of pay as a bartender than he does as a paramedic. He had less responsibility. What happens if he mixed that cocktail the wrong way? What happens if he served a particular customer the wrong brand of adult refreshment? Nobody is going to die, nobody is going to be grossly affected and suffer. On the other hand, the responsibility of a bartender gets a higher rate of pay than a paramedic. That, to me, is not justice.

I heard the previous speaker speak about the rate of pay and at one stage he said he was not sure of the rate of pay in other provinces, in other jurisdictions. So, for that member I would like to point out that a Level II paramedic in this province can receive $7.90 per hour, can work 56 hours per week and often up to 80 hours a week. I will table this, just compared to that rate of pay here in this province: a Level II paramedic in Winnipeg receives $19.67 an hour; in Regina, $20.54 an hour; in Calgary, $22.94 an hour; and in Vancouver and in Victoria, $23.77 an hour. I will table that for the member's information, also. They work less hours, of course; it is just listed there.

Mr. Speaker, that information, to young people - like that young gentleman that I met at Brookside Junior High on career day - when and if he gets the training for a paramedic, if he wants to make a decent living, he is going to go somewhere else. I understand members present or I can hear their thoughts. Not that I can mind-read, but I can hear them saying, oh, yeah, but the cost of living in Calgary or the cost of living in - I don't know about Regina, but we won't get into Saskatchewan comparisons unless the member from Cape Breton Nova wants to help me through Saskatchewan comparisons here.

What I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is that those rates of pay between Nova Scotia and other areas that I mentioned, are grossly unfair and therefore even more of these paramedics must be congratulated for their dedication. I have here - not that I read The Daily News back in 1988 - a press clipping of an article written by Stephen Bornais, 1988, in which Mr. Bornais, at the time, did this piece entitled, "Just another day on the job, Hard-working ambulance drivers face long hours and low wages". During that shift, a 12-hour shift I believe, Mr. Bornais followed ambulance drivers, as they were called at that time, ambulance drivers Gordon Richardson and Dennis Devereux - if I have pronounced Dennis' name correctly - through a typical day. At that time these gentlemen were making $7.00 an hour -

[Page 776]

in 1988. Now math tells me, from the comments I made earlier, that we have certainly forgotten paramedics today, 11 years later when their wages have not, under any circumstances, kept up with the cost of living in this province. Mr. Bornais asks Jack Cook, the President of the Nova Scotia Society of Ambulance Personnel - and again, it was called that at the time - what keeps attendants on the job, day after day, year after year? Mr. Cook responded, "I guess we're just brain-dead", he quipped.

Well, you know, I think paramedics are not going to take it anymore. They are not going to put up with 1988 conditions and 1988 wages when they, Mr. Speaker, are no longer just ambulance drivers. Now, through the courses offered, through their own improvement strategies, they have become paramedics, who deserve a fair wage and who also deserve tremendous treatment.

What is the role of paramedics in our community? I want to share with the House and share with friends in the gallery, the fact that I have had the privilege in my teaching career, to be involved with five young people who have chosen this particular profession. I think of myself as an educator, at the time, helping them on career days, helping them when they turned to me as a teacher: sir, I am interested in being a paramedic, what do I have to do, where should I begin?

[5:15 p.m.]

Over the years, I have advised these young people, yes, that is a great career, that is something you should look into, that is something this community could benefit from. I have done that. I am almost sad to say that I want to apologize to these young people for directing them in that way. I must say to them, as a teacher, they came to me for advice, and the very first thing I should have looked at was, are they getting paid a decent wage, do they have a collective bargaining unit that is going to represent them, will they have some of the benefits that I had at that time as a member of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, do they have overtime, do they have a fair wage?

They are in it and they are still in it. In fact, one is enrolled in the course offered here in Halifax, the School of Emergency Health. There are currently 22 more students going to be enrolled, and they are going to graduate in February 2000. A rough estimate, I have been told, is that Nova Scotia taxpayers pay about $12,000 per student for these young people - I don't know if they are all young - for these paramedics to get their Paramedic III. They are taught by medical staff, they are taught as the first responders in the golden hour of their responsibility.

Do you know what this young man is going to do? He is going to take his Paramedic III, and he is going to leave Nova Scotia. When he asked me about it, and when he said what do you think I should do, sir - as old as he is, I can't believe that he still calls me that, but I

[Page 777]

thank Peter for that - what do you think I should do? I said, you go where you can make a decent living for your young family.

It will be a loss to our community, it will be a loss to our province, but if you can make a better wage and get better benefits in some other part of this country - let alone what is going to happen beneath the border at the Excited States of America. We talk about losing nurses, we talk about losing doctors. Well, paramedics are faced with the same decision. I don't hold it against that young man for making that decision.

I want to talk about a young woman who has become a paramedic. She loves her job. She had a choice, she told me. She thought of being a nurse, but no, she wanted, she said, the action of being a paramedic. Now that I look back on that, I wish I had said to that young woman, you should become a nurse, because now we are going to be in the market for nurses. We are going to have a shortcoming in this province for nurses, and that nurses, they get much more respect and they get a fairer wage than any paramedic in this province ever thought of receiving.

Those other students that I have had a chance to speak to, and I called two of them this weekend. I said, I am going to have an opportunity to try to represent your views. I want to use some of the adjectives they used. I won't use them all because one of them used to be a star hockey player on a team that I coached. He told me he was mad. I said to him, Michael, you are not mad, you are angry. Bulls get mad, people get angry. He said, well, I am something else, and he used the word. All I can tell you is, he is mad. He is frustrated, he is concerned. His concerns revolve around the fact that he has been a paramedic for a prolonged length of time. Since his training, he has married and he has two children.

I want members present just to think of the shift that you have to put in, and when you come home from one of those shifts, if your little guy - and Michael's little guy is in this situation - has a Saturday morning hockey game at the St. Margarets rink at 7:00 a.m., and Dad has been at work for 24 or 36 or whatever number of hours because he wants to get as many hours in as he can to make a living, what happens to that little guy's father when taking him to the rink? Do you know what this father did on Saturday? He took his kid to the rink; he put him in his Tim Horton's gear; he put him out there on the ice and then that paramedic went out into his vehicle and went to sleep. He went to sleep, Mr. Speaker. In fact, one of the coaches came out with the little guy, and said to him, Michael you had better wake up, the practice is over and your son wants to go home. That is not quality family time with your kid when he is playing minor hockey. That's the sort of stress that some of these people have to put up with.

I know members present are going to listen to some of these comments because they are going to hear it from their own constituents. I encourage constituents to call their MLAs if they have been on the receiving end, or if they have been a paramedic, or are a paramedic, the more people that we hear from in this business -the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I

[Page 778]

encourage paramedics to make their views known, perhaps not with some of the adjectives that Michael used, because I can't use them in this House, but I can tell you that they are the very sort of adjectives that people are using in coffee houses because they are angry and they do not like to see what this government is doing to the collective bargaining process.

Over the years in the community that I have lived in, I have had the opportunity to, unfortunately, be on the scene of a couple of major accidents. One of them very much similar to an incident which I believe you were involved in, Mr. Speaker. I am proud to say that I wear a Medal of Bravery here on my lapel pin. I never really intended to bring it up but I was encouraged by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage to do so.

I was late as usual and I was booting it down Highway No. 103 to go to a sports meeting in town - and I can't say I was obeying the speed limit - and apparently a deer jumped out of the woods and jumped in front of this car. The gentleman driving the car lost control and it went down into one of those deep ravines out there on Highway No. 103, along Nine Mile River. The car rolled over. I am facing them. Those white lights are coming at me and I got that deer in the headlight look, I'll tell you, but I am not the deer that ran off in the woods. The car went down in the woods, rolled over and I backed up, well anyway, we got the guy out. The car blew up, but that's another story.

In the midst of that, along came a fire department member who placed the call and out of nowhere - by that time I had placed the man in the back of my station wagon, covered him with my dog's blanket he wasn't appreciative of that after I got to see him - and thankfully, the paramedics arrived. That was about 9:15 p.m. at night. I must admit I was shaken.

When I look back on that event, the investigation by the RCMP and the recognition that I received, Mr. Speaker, I was much like you. I had no interest in going to Ottawa. When they gave me the Medal of Bravery, I jokingly said I was going to melt it down for my wife to make into earrings and I have since apologized for that comment, because that little bit of jocularity was not appropriate at the time. But I want to tell you that I went home that night and told my wife what happened. I won't tell you what she said, Mr. Speaker, because she couldn't believe that I would get a guy out of a burning car.

The next morning on my way to school I had to get my cup of energy, so I pulled in to the local Tim Hortons and who was sitting in the parking lot; those same two paramedics who were on the scene. Those two paramedics had worked all night. I go over to them and say, guys, thank God you were there. Not a problem. What kind of night did you have? We were busy the rest of the night.

So while I enjoyed my cup of coffee on my way to work, they are still at work and those two paramedics never got a Medal of Bravery. They were doing their job. They were taking care of me because I did something instantaneous, without thinking, because I thought, I have got to get that guy out of there. But once I got him out of there and got him up under

[Page 779]

my dog's blanket in the back of that car, I had no idea what to do. I was completely in shock. I am thinking to myself, as the gas tank has blown and this car is afire, what in the name of God did I just do? But these two paramedics arrived, cool, calm, collected. They not only took care of the victim but they took care of me.

Finally, when the time came to get in my car and drive away, I at least had the presence of mind to say about those two guys, I am going to find out who they were. The next morning, I was lucky to be able to meet them.

I must tell you, Mr. Speaker, that is the sort of event that makes me completely supportive of any paramedic. For example, there was an unfortunate accident in my local hockey rink in which a member of a league that I play in had a heart attack. Now the old teacher in me, I am going to take care of this. This guy went out and had one shift and came back to the bench and we realized he was having a heart attack. Thank God there was a guy on the bench who, because of his profession, had his cell phone with him. We did the 911 and those guys from Tantallon Mall were in that St. Margarets arena immediately, right out on that bench taking care of our problem. Those paramedics we cannot take for granted.

I used two examples personally and I am sure there are members present over there who have other examples that they or their friends or various other people they know who have seen these particular men and women in action, people we cannot take for granted.

The collective bargaining process in this province is something that, as a Nova Scotian, I have come to respect. I think, on the committees that I served on through the negotiating process, there is a certain give and take, there is a certain ebb and flow. I don't think anyone was surprised when in July we were made aware of the fact that 99.1 per cent of the paramedics who voted on that day said they were prepared to strike. That was in July, so it is coming.

When I assumed the Labour Critic responsibilities, one of the first questions I asked the previous critic from Cape Breton was, tell me about the paramedics, what exactly do you have in your file? I was given that file. I went through it and placed calls and asked questions and had the opportunity, as I said earlier, to accompany the paramedics on their protest march to the Minister of Health's constituency office. I, as a new critic in a new area, went out of collective bargaining process in this province.

[5:30 p.m.]

If we have essential services in this province and certain essential services do not have the right to strike, whether it is the police, of which you were, of course, a member, Mr. Speaker - excuse me if I put a Fisherman's Friend in my mouth here, it is not chewing tobacco like my good friend the honourable member for Colchester North used to teach me to do. If we are going to continue to have faith in the collective bargaining process in this province

[Page 780]

then we have to make sure that is an essential service, whether it is the police, fire department or maybe school teachers. Then they must be paid appropriately. It seems to me that, suddenly, to squelch the bargaining rights of this particular group of workers is putting them in a situation that they are providing an essential service. But for $7.00 or $8.00 an hour?

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, I have two daughters who both graduated from high school and who both had summer jobs this year in the tourism industry in Prince Edward Island. My two young daughters, with tips flowing in, I must admit, make a better living during the summer than paramedics. These two young people do not . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member might just explain to me what relevance that has to the principle of the bill?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I was getting to that, thank you for helping my train of thought, I have one daughter who has not chosen her career. After her summer job was over, she has been very much enamoured by this young man I spoke of earlier and I have a daughter who is thinking of becoming involved as a paramedic. The debate that is taking place here today is going to discourage her, I know. It is going to discourage her because she knows of her father's own profession and that fact that as the good unionist that I am, and proud to say that, that unions must have the complete collective right to bargain in good faith with the give and take, with the ebb and flow and if the time comes right, the right to strike for a good common, decent wage.

I can tell you that when it comes to making a decent wage, when I have two children - I can't call them children, two young people who make better money than these people do - as summer jobs in the tourist industry, of all things, in a different province, may I tell you - I question whether we are treating paramedics fairly.

Dr. Hamm has said that his government has another option to preserve public safety, a fair offer of better wages and benefits for paramedics. Dr. Hamm has been heard to say those things. He has also promised the government could have taken a balanced approach by paying paramedics overtime and repealing the legislation that lets the government get away with overtime costs for paramedics. I sat in this House with the good doctor and I have known him in the past and the people of Pictou County speak highly of him. I asked the Premier, it is time to match those commitments.

Talk is cheap, Mr. Speaker. There has to be more money brought to the table. I hear the excuse, we don't have that money. I have heard the other comments. I have heard the fact that we could make comments about Mr. MacLeod in Cape Breton or some particular person's job or Scotiabank. We are playing politics with that, I know. The point is - and I don't think there is a member present who would deny the fact - that paramedics are poorly paid. We have, it has been said, the most qualified paramedics, but we also have the most poorly paid. Now that is a dichotomy that is absolutely, under any circumstances

[Page 781]

unacceptable. Paramedics deserve better. They deserve better as professionals, because that is what they are. They are no longer ambulance drivers; they no longer race from accident to accident, and they are no longer connected with the funeral homes. I believe that you will notice that some of that old attitude is still there with some of the management group, that the old funeral operators, they still, you know, they can drive an ambulance and they can put a band-aid on a cut.

Those days are long gone. These paramedics are the first people there, particularly in rural Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, areas such as you serve and areas, part of which I serve where paramedics are the first ones on the scene. There are no paid fire departments, volunteers who at work have to respond. Meanwhile the paramedic is the first one there. The paramedic is the first one on the school grounds when the young person falls off the swing. You call 911 and you get a paramedic before you get a member of the fire department now because, of course, these volunteers have jobs. They do respond, but it is the paramedics who lead the way.

These paramedics are professionals. They are no longer ambulance drivers; they are no longer connected to funeral homes. In the past some of the comments that were directed to an ambulance driver, you know, if he arrived too late, at least he had further business for the funeral home that he works for, those days no longer exist, thankfully. Thank God, paramedics are now professionally trained so that they can save lives. They are not any longer just truck drivers with a first-aid kit.

The examples I have used and the young people I have referred to bring me to my main point. It seems to me that as Nova Scotians you do not run into or meet more fair-minded people who will listen, who will be open-minded, fair-minded people, no matter what age or what community who want what is best for their community. I know there are young people who are saying to themselves that they are interested in this career. I am sure that I will be asked in future years: Should I become a paramedic? I am interested. It has action. I can in many ways be helpful to my community. As a teacher, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what that answer is going to be anymore. Perhaps I should discourage young people in my community from becoming paramedics if after all they are going to face legislation such as this.

Fair-minded Nova Scotians of another age, fair-minded Nova Scotians who are shocked when they hear what paramedics are paid - and this particular piece of literature is so helpful, and the quotes on the back are so appropriate - like the lady, Ms. Densmore, from the Noel Shore which, I believe, is in your constituency, very close to the member for Hants West, referring to the member for Hants East, I want to quote what she says, "What would we have done had it not been for the paramedics quick response . . .". She is quoted in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, July 16th of this year, "We need paramedics. They deserve equal pay with their counterparts in other provinces.".

[Page 782]

I do not know whether she is a member of any political Party, it does not make any difference. I am sure that the paramedics when they were putting this together, or the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union when they were putting this together, went through some of the comments in the press. When this particular reporter was reporting on this incident, I am sure they did not look at that as a political comment at the time, but Wilma Densmore says they should be paid like their counterparts in other provinces.

Mr. Speaker, that is the key part. How many times in this province have we heard and seen that old movie from Cape Breton, Goin Down the Road? I want to tell you about the first time I saw Goin Down the Road. I saw it in Hamilton, Ontario. There are a lot of Maritimers and a lot of Cape Bretoners in Hamilton, Ontario. I went in to that movie house and it received great reviews, and it is a graphic movie that will last forever. When I was watching that in Hamilton, Ontario, and at the time, I must tell you who I was with, because she thought it was funny . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the member, we are speaking to the principle of the bill here, please. If you would (Interruptions)

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, listen, there is a point to this. (Interruptions) I can give you a copy of my notes, I am in my conclusion.

MR. SPEAKER: That would be nice.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I have Goin Down the Road as a wrap-up point.

MR. SPEAKER: Actually, I heard you once, thank you.

MR. ESTABROOKS: You know, Goin Down the Road wasn't funny. Goin Down the Road, for those people who left Cape Breton to go get a job wasn't funny. It was funny to those people in Hamilton, Ontario, they thought it was a comedy. It was a tragedy. It is still a tragedy today, because I see young teachers; I see young nurses; a daughter of a friend of mine who went to Texas. I am sure I am going to see paramedics.

This young man I have known for many years, this young man, when he gets his Paramedic III, he is going to go down the road, and that is a sad commentary. That is a sad commentary because he has not been fairly treated in this province. His profession has not been fairly treated in this province, and that is the connection.

The connection being that out-migration in this province, as it is so neatly called now in the 1990's and on to the year 2000, that going down the road is going to encourage well-trained paramedics who are not well treated and not well paid and do not have the sort of benefits that they need to stay and serve in this province; they are going to go down the road to Edmonton or Calgary or Hamilton. I am sure that people in Hamilton will welcome them

[Page 783]

because they will be well trained, at the taxpayers' expense in this province. That seriously hurts.

What hurts is that the faith in the collective bargaining process is damaged. It is damaged in here today because during the opportunity when the ex-Minister of Labour got up to speak, I left. I have to do that on occasion, because I went outside and I had the occasion to listen to some of these people, again. I didn't know any of them, and I introduced myself.

They look at what we have been doing down here, reading our newspapers, although I see no one doing it now, turning and chatting, and not paying attention, and there were members over there present during this, because these people said to me, those clowns - and I guess they included me in this one too - aren't paying attention to what anyone is saying, they already have their mind made up. Those paramedics, they have left here today, and the few that are remaining are angry. They are angry because of the legislation, and when it is explained to them and probably some of them are going to be watching it here on the 6:00 o'clock news when Withers and Rick Grant and all those guys put a spin on what happened in here today, they are going to say to that Minister of Labour, he is curtailing debate. He is bringing in closure, he is not allowing us, as parliamentarians, to speak on some of the very examples that I have and that other members have. I am sure that other members of all Parties will speak. I am sure that the member for Dartmouth North will have something to say.

I look forward to the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley speaking up for his paramedics, to have his say. You had that reputation when you sat here, you were a straight shooter. You told us, so many times, about the roads out there and how the ambulance and the paramedics couldn't get through. It is your turn to speak up for Nova Scotians, to have your say, to talk to paramedics. No, I asked the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to listen to paramedics, and then say, am I a member of the PC caucus? The member from that renowned constituency, being fair to the paramedics who serve my constituency, I look forward to your comments. I know you will have some things to say about fairness, about listening, about the very things that members of that caucus, and you in particular, honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, stood for in this House. I have not heard you.

[5:45 p.m.]

I have not yet heard from the honourable member for Yarmouth who was present on July 26th. He has not said a word in here and I know the previous member for Yarmouth would be on his feet and having his say. The people who read the Yarmouth Vanguard or the people who listen to the radio station in Yarmouth would say that my MLA is speaking up for me. Heaven forbid, if I don't hear from the honourable member for Preston during this debate, what will he possibly say? What does it say? It says it so well in the blue book, on

[Page 784]

Page 5 - this has relevance, Mr. Speaker - "Making Government Accountable . . . Give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents;". (Applause)

Some of them, I assume, are paramedics, or have been rescued, served by, or taken care of, by paramedics. I know that in coffee shops tomorrow, when they are pouring over those papers or when they comment on the six o'clock news, whatever spin is put on it, they are going to say that this government is curtailing debate, that this government is not allowing the collective bargaining process to play itself out, that this government is unfair to paramedics and that there is absolutely no excuse for it to be allowed to continue. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, appreciate the opportunity to be able to stand in this House to debate second reading of Bill No. 9. I, too, appreciate the opportunity that the democratic process allows us to have with regard to expressing concerns and issues that affect the public and people in the Province of Nova Scotia. I, too, appreciate the fact that this House has been able, over many years, to establish the democratic right to be able to express the issues and concerns on behalf of people in the province, through our legislative elected office, to bring these concerns forward to this very important place in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, what I am very disappointed and disturbed about is that this House that is here to hear the concerns of Nova Scotia has been handcuffed and bound to a restrictive measure put in by the honourable Minister of Labour that basically says, you can say all you want but we will not listen; we will not try to find a solution; we are here to dictatorially tell you, the members on the Opposition side of this House, that our way is the only way; our way is the right way for this province. I don't care what you bring forward, I don't care what you have to say, I don't care how much concern you have about the issue, we will not listen, we will not pay attention, as is evident as I look across the way, and we will not even allow you to come forward with a resolution to this problem.

As the illustrious Minister of Health, who walks through the door, and bows in reverence to this House, I think he should bow in forgiveness to the members of this House for the inability for us, as legislators, to represent the concerns of the paramedics and the concerns of the people of this province, through the ability for us not only to bring forward debate but also to bring forward resolution or amendments that could provide a worthwhile benefit to this very serious problem and issue we are facing.

To me, this isn't about a 30 second sound bite, this is about democracy, this about freedom, this is about the ability that this Premier has said very clearly over the last number of days that he wants to bring Nova Scotians closer together to find solutions to the challenges that we face. This is a government and a Premier that has said repeatedly during

[Page 785]

the election days that we are a government of a new era, one that will listen to Nova Scotians, one that will want to try to find solutions, one that will be a government that its front benches will be there to work with the workers and the people of this province to find solutions that will benefit all.

Mr. Speaker, those are hollow words spoken by the Premier of this province and they are hollow words and policies that this government had enunciated during the last election because the reality here is this is a government that says, we are the ones with the stick. We are the ones with the hammer and, by goodness gracious, we are going to use it whenever we want to use it. We will use it against the poor. We will claw away from those who are disadvantaged. We will take away the individual rights of Nova Scotians and we will do it through one cause. The cause is not about fairness, equity and equality of people, it is about the almighty dollar. They say they have the right, because of their election victory, to do whatever they think and everything they deem to be right for the benefit of the almighty dollar.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that is an example of a government that does not have a plan about the future of this province. They do not have a plan. They do not have a plan about moving the agenda forward, about building an opportunity for our people and our young people. Their plan is very tunnel-vision and is very myopic, if I may use that word. Their plan is a box and I think the reality would be in three or four years they will find themselves in that proverbial box and that box might be pine and it might have nails on the top of it because Nova Scotians will scream out at the fact that the first measure they bring into this House is to claw back money from the poor. The second is to dismantle organizations that have just started but, more importantly, their first piece of legislation that has any substantive measures is to take away the inherent rights of Nova Scotians. I think that is absolutely disgusting.

I referred to it last week and I referred to it again today. The Hamm-Harris approach to a dictatorial government in the Province of Nova Scotia is alive and well, Mr. Speaker. The Hamm-Harris approach to where the future of this province will be will not be written in a blue book for the Province of Nova Scotia. It will not be drafted and moved forward by Nova Scotians but, in fact, it will be done by central Canada, by the Harris approach to collective bargaining, the Harris approach to the benefits of Nova Scotians. I think people voted Nova Scotians to represent them, not an Ontario regime to represent the people of this province. How disgraceful this really is.

I want to talk a minute about paramedics. The Minister of Health referred to front-line workers as being essential. I remember in this House when I had the opportunity and the pleasure to sit on the other side of this House, talking about the importance of front-line workers. Front-line workers are key to the health care system. I remember the debates that we had about finding fairness and equity and parity for the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia. Some of the frontbench members who were here before now have their heads bowed because they realize all too well what they said about the issues of fairness, equity and parity

[Page 786]

for the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia. Those same members that now are buried in paperwork about something else do not seem to be too concerned about fairness, equity and parity for the paramedics of this province - people who are on the front line, individuals who are highly skilled and highly motivated and are dedicated to the health and well-being of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Yes, they have been through the negotiated process for a long time but what this government has done, not only have done to them, is to take away their legitimate right to find a solution. These are moms and dads, brothers and sisters, paramedics are caring people. They do this job because they enjoy, they care about community. They care about people and they are the ones who are prepared to train and go to university or college or training facilities so that they can be able to provide the best service to the people of Nova Scotia when in need. They are there to provide that service without blinking an eye because they care about what they do.

I am so disappointed that the government of the day does not have enough time to show their care and appreciation for the people who, literally, are working night and day to provide front-line service to the public of Nova Scotia. Instead, Mr. Speaker, what we see is a bit of a Draconian measure come forward, to say to these people that you have no rights and, yes, you can sit down and negotiate but, by the way, we have taken away any potential to bring an argument forward to be compensated properly for the job that you have done.

I can relate to the feelings of these individuals, these men and women in the audience today, because we as legislators, and all Nova Scotians, should realize that our rights to bring forward arguments in debate have been taken away as well. So this Legislative Assembly is not here to find solutions, Mr. Speaker, this Legislative Assembly today and tonight is here to do one thing and that is to drive home their agenda that was put together last Thursday night without thought, without consideration, and without due process; to drive home their agenda and say to the front-line workers in this province that we don't care about you and we don't care about the service you deliver and we don't care about the fact that you are willing to put your job on the line to save the lives of Nova Scotians. What we care about is one thing and that is our dollar, our dollar and the balanced budget system.

They can find $2 million to elect an individual who is now the honourable Minister of Community Services, and think nothing of that; they can find $2 million or $1.5 million to move a jail and forensic service because they knew that that was going to get a vote for an individual to make sure that they had a majority government. Those days of chocolates and nylons and rum are long gone, I thought, in this province. Maybe they are gone in those capacities, they have moved up to another level . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the member to bring himself back to the principle of the bill, please.

[Page 787]

MR. DOWNE: They have moved away from that, Mr. Speaker, but they have gone to a more sophisticated approach of spending millions of dollars to buy votes for an individual riding, and yet they do not have the ability to look after the people who have been looking after Nova Scotians for years. I think that is deplorable. I think that is wrong, and I think this government should be ashamed of the approach that they have taken, this government and this term of office.

Mr. Speaker, I want to read a resolution.

"Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas paramedics across Nova Scotia provide important and vital public service; and

Whereas paramedics are not given the same basic rights and protection under the Minimum Wage Order, the Labour Standards Code and the Workers' Compensation Act as most other working Nova Scotians; and

Whereas many paramedics in rural Nova Scotia continue to work up to 120 hours per week under difficult working conditions, putting the safety of patients at risk;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health meet with representatives of the NSGEU and representatives of rural paramedics not presently members of the NSGEU to discuss work-related concerns and, further, that he urge the Minister of Labour and the Chief Executive Officer of the Workers' Compensation Board to move quickly in extending the rights and protection afforded other Nova Scotian workers to Nova Scotia's paramedics.".

This is something that this government ran the election on, building rural Nova Scotia, but they seem to have forgotten about rural Nova Scotia.

That was a resolution that was presented on December 1, 1997, by none other than the current Minister of Labour in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. Can you imagine the hypocrisy? Can you imagine the double standard? Can you imagine how they can sit there, after making this statement, and I believe these resolutions were meant in the best of faith. These resolutions are something that, I am sure, the current Minister of Labour thought about and realized that if he is going to put pen and ink to paper on an issue that he believed fervently in, an issue that he believed fundamentally in, and that is the rights of workers and the rights of the paramedics in the Province of Nova Scotia, that he, above all, would be the first one to stand up in this House and say he was wrong back then or he is wrong now, but he can't be right on both occasions. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

[Page 788]

[6:00 p.m.]

I know that the paramedics in this province are watching this debate, as well as Nova Scotians, and saying, wait now, how can this member, who has sat in this House for a number of years and is highly respected in a lot of ways, ever come forward with a resolution such as this, that basically says what the government should do in 1997 and totally flip-flopping his position now that he is in power?

Mr. Speaker, what signal does that give to Nova Scotians about where this government's agenda really is? I keep asking, where is their plan? We don't know their plan in health care, we don't know their plan in the budgetary process, we don't know their plan with regard to any other ministry in the front benches, because it is all under consultation. It is all under review. I happen to think it is what you call knee-jerk review. It is whatever flavour of the day, that they deem is right, will now be the law of the land.

I find that very hard to understand. I know backbenchers in this government, and they are God-fearing individuals who care about integrity and truthfulness. They care about bringing forward an agenda that not only deals with the economic issues of the province but the social concerns. I know members who are in Dartmouth who care about people. I heard them say, he cares and is concerned about the health and the social well-being of society.

I don't see this being reflected here today. Not only have we had our rights taken away to bring forward legitimate options for the members to listen to and look at and try to find a solution, but they have taken away the fundamental right of our paramedic deliverers of service in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, as I watched the Minister of Justice close his eyes in absolute sleep, I say to him, I think the Minister of Justice should just sit there and keep his eyes open because I have a comment I want to say here.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would like to object to the honourable member's comment which suggested that for some reason I was asleep in the House. That is absolutely not the case. I would ask the member to withdraw that comment.

MR. DOWNE: I am glad he woke up here, because obviously he is not asleep and I appreciate that. I should rephrase it that the minister was closing his eyes in rest, and I appreciate that he is wide awake. I want to bring something to the attention of the House, again back to the fact of this Harris-Hamm approach to government that has no real plan and no real vision, but clearly wants to show a dictatorial approach to government, and this was presented to me by a Mr. Gallant, who is a paramedic in the Bridgewater area.

[Page 789]

He wrote me this note because I happened to visit him this morning. While running for political office, the Honourable Michael Baker stated after an information session in New Germany, and now this is a member who is now the Minister of Justice in the Province of Nova Scotia, the Minister of Justice, by the way, who will be determining tomorrow or whenever we get into the Law Amendments Committee or get into the discussion with the public with regard to Bill No. 9, he will be determining the hours of discussion and whether or not, we don't know even if they will be able to bring in amendments during that time. This is the Minister of Justice who will basically control that agenda.

He says, boys, I am sure he meant boys and girls or men and women, but he says, boys, it is like this, as he was talking to paramedics in New Germany, it is like this, the money is there, trust me on this one, the money is there. It is in place but the only way you are going to get it is to go on strike. This is now the Minister of Justice, during the election campaign, telling the paramedics, listen, the money is there but the only way you are going to get paid is to go on strike. He is telling them to go on strike. It is your right, he says, to go on strike. I want to ask him at a later date, if he really meant that, or is the information I got today inaccurate? But if he really meant to go on strike - and the paramedics have told me that they really don't want to go on strike, they want to find a solution. They want to find a solution that will be able to provide the best care to Nova Scotians and I don't think it is wise for any member, or any side of this House, to promote strikes.

It is better to promote finding a solution and true collective bargaining and the ability to sit down and compromise and come up with solutions. That is why when I read this I was taken aback. I don't really know if the Minister of Justice is that type of an individual that would possibly go on a campaign trail to promote the people to go on strike to make a point.

Just think, Mr. Speaker, what effect that would have, as the letter goes on to state, if an individual ended up having a heart attack and they were on strike, what effect would that have without the paramedics? Hopefully the member opposite didn't mean this, but this is the message I am getting back from people in my constituency and his constituency, that they are concerned, first, by their approach to finding a solution.

They said, and the minister stated, the money is there, the money is not the question; it is a matter of that the only way you are going to find a solution is to go on strike. Well, I want to clarify something, the member now says the only way to find a solution is that we will dictatorially tell you that you have no right to strike and, furthermore, it is our agenda that will drive the end effect of what they are going to receive in the future of the Province of Nova Scotia.

I think that is really wrong and that is concerning. Concerning that this is - I don't know if this is just nervousness of the new government or this is really the long-term strategy of the new government - but whatever it is, Mr. Speaker, it is concerning. It is concerning for members of this side of the House, it is concerning to the people in the audience, it is

[Page 790]

concerning to Nova Scotians watching this debate. This debate that, by the way, Nova Scotians will not have any resolve because the government has said to us, I don't care what you say, how you say it, or even if you bring solutions forward. We will not listen, we will not accept, we are going to go this 22 hours of debate and have closure. Then we are going to shut her down, we are going to shut her down for the second reading, and then we will move over to the Red Room to hear what Nova Scotians have to say.

I hope Nova Scotians go there and let this government know that nobody wants a strike. Nobody wants a strike, they want a solution. They want a win-win solution. That is what I thought this process was all about. That is what I understood the now Premier wanted Nova Scotians to do; come with solutions so that we can find a way to make it work.

Mr. Speaker, I note with interest the minister's opening comments when he referred to the October 1st tentative agreement, and then of course the announcement that October 29th is the strike date. I understand clearly that when he made the comment that the EMC contingency plan was in place, well, I do not know if they had a contingency plan that was contingent on this government coming in with legislation that said, you cannot strike. If that is the case, then I am surprised that EMC would be that way.

I would like to, number one, have the minister at some point in time clarify that statement. If they do have a contingency plan, if they had one, I would like to have seen that contingency plan, seeing now they will never have to use it, based on the approach this government has taken. Secondly, they said a little over a week ago that, yes, the government of the day has a plan, he said they had three options to deal with. Number one, do nothing. Well, do nothing is maybe not the answer. The appropriate measure that the minister should have said is that we could have done something by helping assist EMC in the negotiative process to find a solution.

That is what this Liberal Government has done time and time again, Mr. Speaker. That is what we have done about finding parity for nurses. That is what we did to find solutions to homes that were threatened with strikes. We didn't bring in the stick, we didn't bring in the knife in the back, as it were; we tried to bring forward solutions by partnering together with the players.

Then the minister goes on saying the second option was more money and they said they didn't feel they needed any more money, if I have paraphrased the minister's comments correctly. Well, clearly I don't know how much money is on the table for these workers but obviously if there was enough money on the table, and according to the now Minister of Justice saying there was lots of money on the table, then if the issue was really that there is enough money, they wouldn't need to do this because they would have had a settlement by now.

[Page 791]

I believe the real issue is that they didn't put enough money on the table and they are not prepared to find a solution for what we consider the front-line workers, the caring people who are providing this service to Nova Scotians. Really what the government is doing is saying the third option is that we will legislate you back to work. I think that is a very bad initiative on behalf of the government at this early stage of negotiations.

These people, what power do they have to go to the table now? What power do they have to have honest negotiations at this point? These people are working in good faith. The paramedics, the men and women are working in good faith to find a solution. They have said they want to find that solution.

Just imagine, here they are now back at the negotiating table, saying these are the things we want. Well, the other side of the table simply says, well, that is nice, that is good, we hear you loud and clear but, by the way, we have this Bill No. 9 coming up in the Legislature, and that bill says that you do not have any rights anymore because we are going to deem that you will have to work, no matter what. They are saying, well, we didn't want to go on strike anyway but we just want a fair settlement; we just want some equity and some parity and some respect from the members opposite, who were begging for votes a few months ago and promised anything to make it work.

They want respect, as do politicians want respect. The honourable member who is now the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, alluded to some of these things the other day in his speech, talking about respect in the Legislative Assembly, respect for each other, respect for the job and respect for the honour to represent. Mr. Speaker, I think this Draconian move has taken away the ability for people to show respect because there is an inability in this legislation to allow these individuals to be able to have fair collective agreements established because they have no power anymore, they have no ability, they have been pushed against the wall, they have been forced to accept whatever comes down the table. In other words, somebody is going to drive whatever down their throat and they have to accept it. I don't think that is what I understood this government was all about. I don't believe that this is what this government said it wanted to do to put this province in a more secure position.

It was interesting, Mr. Speaker, during the debate I happened to be going downstairs to visit a friend in the hospital. As I was walking down I noticed our Premier was face-to-face downstairs with a one of the paramedics. The paramedic's comments were very straight. I don't know how long he was there - 15, 20 or 25 minutes - in this discussion.The Premier said that paramedics are a priority of this government. I was there when he said that they are a priority of this government. That is great, I really appreciate hearing that, but if they are a priority, then why aren't they allowing them an opportunity to legitimately sit at the table to find a solution?

[Page 792]

As the Premier goes on to talk about who is a priority in this province, is this the measure, the hallmark of this government that if you are a priority, we will put you down and take you out? If you are a priority, the poor in this province is a priority to this government, how are they dealing with them? They are putting them down and they are clawing back.

Paramedics are a priority, front-line workers risking their lives, away from their families, working bizarre hours in order to survive, women and men. They are a priority and yet they have no voice. They have no democratic right left to be able to go forward. Even the Opposition benches don't have any democratic right to go forward any further. We can sit here until 2:00 a.m. and we can holler, scream and bring forward all sorts of reasons why they shouldn't have brought this legislation forward, but do you know what they are going to do? They are going to sit back and say, well, it is 6:15 p.m. now, we only have a few more hours, another six hours or seven hours and we will be out of here, we won't have to put up with this anymore, we don't have to listen. They don't have a conscience. They don't want to have a conscious understanding of what they are doing here.

[6:15 p.m.]

There are some in this government who have a conscience. The member for Yarmouth is shaking his head, they don't have a conscience. I happen to think some of you do have a conscience. I know one or two of you do, and what conscience do you have? The conscience is that you will not allow these people to come up with earnest negotiated processes to find a win-win solution; a win for the safety of the public of Nova Scotia, a win for this government to show that it had leadership to go forward to find solutions and a win for the paramedics in this province, the front-line workers who are prepared to risk their lives and their family life to provide first-rate care.

I may have misunderstood this government in so many ways, but I understood this as a government that had a heart, a care, a sense of justice, of wanting to do what is right. Yet, you pick on the poorest people in society, the disadvantaged of society and you pick on the people that have helped rebuild an ambulance system that is the envy of North America. They have done it by hard work and dedication and by a commitment and a belief in the future of providing first-rate health care. Yet, the government sits there and says, well, tough luck. This is the way the cookie crumbles. This is our vision of self-reliance for the Province of Nova Scotia.

They mentioned self-reliance in that Speech from the Throne, I bet if they mentioned it once, they mentioned it 5 or 10 times. Well, I don't know the exact numbers - does anybody remember how many times?

AN HON. MEMBER: Self-reliance.

[Page 793]

MR. DOWNE: Well, self-reliance isn't a bad word, but the definition that they say is self-reliance, is quite clear, they put you down and then they will kick you. Then they will kick you again and again. You are being kicked again and again because they don't want you to stand up, be firm, be strong and have a voice, they want you to be bent over, begging for any scrap that they decide is right for them, any scrap they want to throw off the table. Well, I dare say if they really meant what they said earlier about having a conscience, a vision and a caring sensitive approach to government, then they would have given up the $1 million to $2 million that they paid to have somebody elected, and given it to the people who need it; the

men and women who can't even hardly pay back their student loans, much less look after their family. That is what I consider a social conscience, that self-reliance shouldn't take away. You can't hide behind that mask of self-reliance because I think you have a social responsibility as well as an economic responsibility to build a stronger, more vibrant Nova Scotia.

I note that the Premier has stated very clearly during the election campaign in the Harris-Hamm blue book that he wants his caucus to feel they have a voice. The member in the Chair understands all too well the importance of having a free voice in a Party. The member in the Chair recalls many times he has said that although the Party agreed with this certain policy, I didn't. He was given the right to make his own voice known. He might not have voted every time with the government; he voted with his conscience, the same member who literally speared me every time; no matter what portfolio I had, he continually went after me. He was a good working MLA. He, periodically, would bolt and he would take off in another direction and the now Premier seemed to embellish that, seemed to support that, because the member in the chair said he was an independent and wanted to stand up for what is right for his people.

So, because of that, I read with interest the Hamm-Harris approach to the blue book and the Premier states very clearly in there that he is going to allow for free votes of his caucus; he is going to allow for ethics and morality and sensitivity, and for intellectual knowledge and understanding of the issues to come to the forefront. He indicated that there will be free votes in his government on pertinent pieces of legislation, and I want to know whether or not this Premier and this House Leader and his Party and caucus Whip will allow this government to be able to have a free vote on this issue.

I know, as I look across the benches here, some of you are maybe squirming because you know deep down in your heart and soul that you have taken away the fundamental rights of individuals, and you have not allowed a process to continue, and you have not paid attention to the honesty of what these people have said, that we do not want a strike and we will not put the system in chaos, and we are there to provide front-line service, and we will care about Nova Scotians and we will not negate our responsibility as front-line workers.

[Page 794]

So when you have that in your mind and you realize that these men and women, moms and dads, care about what they do, if you do have the guts to go forward with a free vote, I would be anxious to know whether the Prestons of the world that say no to that, or the Yarmouths of the world that say no, or the Shelburnes of the world that say no, or the Pictous of the world that say no, the Lunenburg Counties of the world that say no to the rights of individuals, or any other, I will be anxious to see whether they have the political will to go forward with a free vote in the House, Mr. Speaker, to allow Nova Scotians to clearly understand the heart and soul and the vision and the plan of this government today.

I know that in the debates you will be having in caucus over the next 24 or 48 hours, some of you who have a conscience and an understanding of what we have just done will come forward and say, just a minute, there is a spark of truth here that should be looked at not only for the paramedics, but even members of this Legislature, that we are not even able to come forward with options or plans to find a solution. You have said, no, we don't care what you say. We don't care what you have to add to this; we have our plan and we are going to drive her through. So I will be anxious to hear from my colleagues across the floor how truly honest and how much integrity they have if they have an open free vote, which I hope they do, that they will come forward and vote based on the facts of what is here.

I am sure there is not one paramedic in this province who would want to go on strike. They don't want to go on strike. I am sure - and I am taking a fair amount of liberty here and they will correct me if I am wrong - that these people who got into this field never got into this field for the money. They got into it because they cared about . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: . . .them laughing.

MR. DOWNE: Yes, they are laughing, not at you, Bobby, they are laughing at the fact that they got into this job because they believed, fundamentally, in the delivery of this service to the well-being of Nova Scotians. Secondly, they believe that any government prepared to upgrade the facility to a world-class facility would do the honourable thing and that is compensate people properly for the work that they do. They are not asking to be millionaires. They are not asking for a ticket to ride. They are not asking for a grandiose financial scheme where they never have to worry about anything the rest of their lives. They are not asking for that.

They are asking for simple things such as benefits that are equal to most other government employees in the province. They are asking for salary adjustments that are comparative to what other places are paying across this country. They are asking for equality, equity and respect and what message are you giving them? The message you are giving them is that you do not respect them. You do not care about them. They are dispensable. They are like a Bic lighter; when it is empty, we will throw you away. We will get another one. That is the image that they have of the government today and you have a chance, colleagues, to change that. You have an opportunity to resolve that. You, the ones who have a conscience

[Page 795]

in the group, have the ability to say let's try one more time to find a solution but I think that is falling on deaf ears.

Mr. Speaker, I, too, have had some letters from paramedics in the province with regard to the bill. One I found kind of interesting - although they are all interesting - I just want to touch on one here to talk about the paramedic dispatchers. As I understand, these dispatchers are also paramedics. They have been trained and they are skilled. The question is, does this legislation affect them? I notice the Minister of Justice is now leaning over to the Minister of Labour because maybe they are trying to find out whether it does or not, whether or not this would also incorporate the dispatchers in Bill No. 9. I understand there is a shortage of dispatchers in the Province of Nova Scotia and maybe that is the case but under this procedure does that mean that dispatchers now will be part of this process or, in fact, will we need to bring in Bill No. 9B, as the letter states, to be able to address the concerns of the dispatchers?

I understand EMC has admitted that they have a staff shortage and that they are concerned about the whole issue of the effect of losing those individuals. So the question really is, are these paramedics that are now dispatchers also working 12 hours a day trying to find the ability to live and at the same time provide that service? They also work for EMC. Really the question is, this heavy-handed approach by the government today, is that going to continue on with those who are providing the dispatch for Nova Scotians?

There are more questions, as our Leader has brought up, with regard to this legislation than we can understand but, hopefully, at some point in time members opposite will be able to clarify that and clarify the questions that are there. If not now, maybe when we get into the Red Room and have representatives from across the province bring their concerns in, and I hope they do.

I think, Mr. Speaker, this government, you know, the honeymoon (Interruption) She is kind of a rough honeymoon I would think. I do not know if any of you have been on a honeymoon up there, but I hope it was a little happier and smoother than this one here since they have taken over. I mean how many days now? Is it 60-some days that they have gotten and so the honeymoon is probably over. I think they have expensed a fair amount of political capital on some of the knee-jerk approaches that they have made. We go back to taking away from the disabled and clawing back from organizations that are not for profit and buying votes by building facilities elsewhere so an individual can get elected and now bringing the hammer in to the workers that do not have any rights.

This is a body that has been working and trying to organize themselves for some time. In doing so, in building into this new system, there are some growing pains. In those growing pains there is a lot of communication that is needed, communication that this government should be listening to and dialoguing very closely with workers on the front line of providing ambulance service for the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 796]

[6:30 p.m.]

The Minister of Fisheries just spent the last few days with 60 different organizations in the fishery, and the First Nations people to find a solution, and I applaud him for trying to find a solution. But he had the ability to sit down with the different fishing organizations, the non-native and native organizations, to find solutions. I applaud him for that. I said I will applaud when I believe that things are right.

We have a Minister of Health who, by the way, just spent $208 million more than what his budget really should have been in the beginning of this year, for whatever he decided to spend it on and he never looked after the front-line workers. In the budget that we have just gone through, it talks about $204.6 million but when you add up all the numbers, it is about $208 million that is quoted in brackets - the previous Health Investment Fund - this government had an opportunity to deal with that and they didn't. But they sure had an opportunity to deal with the front-line workers and this is the way they want to approach it. I think that is sad. I think the Minister of Health could have been able to deal with this. He could have sat down with the NSGEU. He could have sat down and said listen, let's try to find a solution here that is a win-win-win.

We don't have great gobs of money to give everybody everything they want. These people know that. Paramedics understand that. They understand where this province is. They are reasonable, rational people. Instead, we said no, we are not going to go that route, we are going to go our route. I wonder how the Minister of Health is going to deal with doctors when they come up in their contract negotiations. Is he going to say, I am sorry boys and girls but this is what we are going to do? I wonder if the Minister of Health is going to say to the nurses who, by the way, I remember the comments that came across the floor - parity and equality, and rights of individuals, and treat them with respect, and you don't care about the nurses in this province or you would treat them with fairness, and equity and equality and parity across this province. I remember those arrows coming across the floor at Ministers of Finance and Ministers of Health.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member for Lunenburg West is aware that the title of this bill is called An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province? I know Speakers in the past have admonished honourable members but they also have given them a lot of leeway and latitude, but I would ask the honourable member, as he is a very seasoned veteran in the House, if he would try to stick to the title in second reading as has been the precedent in the House?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate you bringing me back to that but I never thought I left the issue. What I was referring to is that this administration had an opportunity to show Nova Scotians their plan on health care. They have an opportunity to show their vision of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. They have not only had 60-some-odd days as government, they have not only had Opposition Days, but they have had six years to

[Page 797]

develop this plan and the best solution they have is the hammer. It is the hammer, Mr. Speaker, our way or the highway.

I want to refer to another resolution, Mr. Speaker, that was made in the House (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, the member of the Third Party, the New Democratic Party of the Province of Nova Scotia . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh-h-h!

MR. DOWNE: Oh yes, pardon me. Well, today I guess we were the lead, tomorrow they are the lead, but technically today they are the Third Party. (Laughter) They talk about the Liberal Party and I know that the Tory Government has always tried to emulate many of the qualities that we as Liberals have had. (Laughter) I know all too well, Mr Speaker, that the House Leader for the New Democratic Party was agreeing with the fact that we, the Liberals, were the ones in the last rounds of negotiations when government employees didn't have to have a strike and didn't have to have a stick and a hammer over the heads of Nova Scotia employees. We allowed the collective bargaining process to go its course and to find solutions. We were able to find solutions, Mr. Speaker.

I know that the member in the Third Party, the House Leader is wanting the Progressive Conservative Party to emulate our approach and that is to have honest dialogue with the paramedic workers in the province.

Now I want to read another resolution.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is it on topic?

MR. DOWNE: Yes, I think it is on topic.

This is from a former member of this House and a former Minister of Health in the Province of Nova Scotia, a former minister who was acknowledged in this House and revered, respected and appreciated. It says:

Whereas despite seeking an improvement in their living conditions, paramedics across Nova Scotia are still faced with some cases of 100 hours work per week and pay of less than $7.00 an hour; and

Whereas the ambulance service at the present time in many regions of Nova Scotia has plenty of questions that need answering, obviously you are not going to get any answers to questions now, you have a stick over your head and there are no answers; and

[Page 798]

Whereas unless over 800 paramedics are able to reach an agreement with their employer on a new working condition in the coming weeks, Nova Scotians will see more than 800 paramedics on strike and ambulance service in a state of chaos;

Now this is a member who was formerly the Minister of Health himself, who obviously understands, now this is a gentleman who has been in the House for over a decade and the member who now followed his footsteps revered this member with respect. This is a member who says:

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health - knowing that job action by the paramedics is not too far off - move to ensure that adequate contract agreement is reached between the two sides and, in the process, assure Nova Scotians that in the event of an emergency the ambulance is, hopefully, on its way with a phone call.

This is by George Moody, the honourable member for Kings West. This individual, I believe, too, realized the importance of a proactive role by the honourable Minister of Health - not an inactive role, not a role that shows that the Minister of Health wants to hide from what is really the responsibility, he is suggesting a proactive role. If I know the honourable member who formerly represented Kings West well enough, he was not talking about a role that would see a steamroller come down and roll over these individuals in the gallery today, but, in fact, he would see a government with compassion, a government with leadership, to be able to sit down and find a resolve. That is a concern for all of us in the approach they have taken.

You know it is almost like a chameleon, to change the colours, and I find it terribly frustrating to hear that they want to find solutions by the hammer. (Interruption) Well, I don't know if that is the case. I have letters here talking about driving and that these individuals are risking their lives rushing to accidents to save lives. They are in all kinds of conditions and weather - winter storms and everything else. When that alarm goes, they have to be there. They can't say, well, I have to wait for the salt truck, I have to wait for the plow - they have to be there. They are prepared to put their lives on the line to save a Nova Scotian life.

They talk about the treacherous conditions they work in. That is their job, they are not ashamed of that, they are not hiding from that. All they are saying is that when they do that, they would appreciate a little respect. We haven't seen that in the Legislature on Friday or today.

Mr. Speaker, I think that when the day is over and the government gets its way, because they will get their way, they will get their way because they have the votes in the House, unless the member in Queens County - by the way the member for Queens County, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Human Resources and myself, had lunch on Saturday with a very important organization, Harbour House.

[Page 799]

This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting with some of the paramedics in my area, in Bridgewater, and some of them came from Queens County, from Liverpool.They were amazed, absolutely amazed that out of the blue, the ability for them to go forward has now been taken away. They were amazed. People in Lunenburg County were amazed that instead of showing leadership and governance and a sense of direction by sitting down at the table and saying, listen, men and women, we have to find a solution quick because the 29th or whatever is coming along pretty quickly. Let's get at the table and make it work. They said no. We don't think it is going to work. In fact, we probably haven't get enough money to make it work or whatever it is that they don't want to do, so we are now going to legislate a process to make it work.

When they go back to their respective communities, I can hear the rhetoric now. We have done this, Nova Scotians, because we are concerned about the safety of Nova Scotians. That is why we were forced to make this decision. They are going to say we have done this because we are concerned about the health and safety of Nova Scotians. Guess what? The benches on the other side would agree with that. The audience up top, the paramedics, agree with that. We want to find ways to protect Nova Scotians, but we don't think and they don't think that is the solution, by dictatorially driving it down their throat. Honest discussion is important, and I think the rhetoric should have come out of this House by the members on the government side. We know we don't have large sums of money, everybody knows that. We know that we have to provide quality service, and we know that the members that are on the frontline of providing that to the ambulance services in the Province of Nova Scotia deserve a fair and just approach to what they are doing. So what we have done is we have gone to the table with them to find that solution.

That is what they should be saying in their respective constituencies, that is what they should be doing, but they are not. They are not because they don't have the understanding of the rights of individual Nova Scotians. I think there will come a day that they will regret not trying to find that solution, not trying to go forward and find a respective win-win-win for all individuals.

Winston Churchill, I believe, said at one point that one can always read the writing on the wall, especially when one's back is firmly against it. I think the paramedics in this province can read the writing on the wall all too well, because they have been forced against that wall. Their backs are firmly against it, and they know they have no rights anymore with regard to trying to find a solution to this very serious problem. I have no right to speak on their behalf, but as an elected representative I have a right and an obligation to bring forward some of the concerns that I have heard them mention.

Their frustration and their disappointment in the fact that they listened to members opposite during the election campaign, when the rhetoric was high, the position was strong, trust us, read our lips, we will be there for you. Well, they are there for you now. They are there for you for one reason, to drive you into making a decision whether you like it or not.

[Page 800]

What we are trying to do is make it very clear to the members opposite that they still have a choice, they still have an option. An option that would see the Minister of Health with EMC and the paramedics to sit down in a real, honest and urgent discussion to try to find a win-win solution. These people do not need to be blackmailed. They don't need to be whipped into submission. They don't need to be treated like second class Nova Scotians. These are very proud people and they care about what they do. Maybe some of them even voted for members opposite, hoping that they would be treated with respect and dignity. Maybe the challenge here today, because I can't make a motion, I can't make a resolution, I can't even make an amendment, all I can do here is stand up and try to see if there is a soul in any of them to want to go forward to find a solution.

[6:45 p.m.]

I think we are going to be here until 2:00 a.m. talking about this and for what? A government that doesn't want to listen. The only reason they are here, is that if they don't keep 15 people in the House, then the House will shut down. They are not here to really listen to what is being said. If they were, I would hope that the Minister of Health would stand up and say, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared tonight, with my staff, and EMC - instead of warming a seat in this Legislature - to go forward to see if we can find a solution on this in the closing hours of debate.

Mr. Speaker, I think if Nova Scotians and these people see a commitment of this government to want to honestly and earnestly find a solution, there would be a willingness to try and make it happen. I hope that they will, honestly and earnestly, go forward from here to find that solution. I hope the members of this caucus do not forget that you have a responsibility to represent all people, including your own, in making sure that they are treated fairly, justly and with equality. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of mixed feelings as I stand here this evening to debate Bill No. 9. I come to this place to represent my constituents and they expect me to do the work of trying to improve people's lives, because that is what they think is about. That we come here everyday that this House is in session to work to improve people's lives. In doing so, part of the work of improving people's lives are either improving laws or upholding laws and structures that have protected people and have worked to improve their lives and further their interests. That is what this about. That is what a democratic Legislature is about.

Mr. Speaker, labour laws, the Trade Union Act, is a fundamental feature of the foundation that we have in our society that has been there to assist people in the improvement of their daily lives. The way they get up in the morning. The way they interact with their families. The way they contribute to their society. The way they participate in their society.

[Page 801]

The way that they just are in a community. It is no exaggeration for me to say I feel sick that the first piece of legislation introduced by a government that will be three months old this week is a piece of legislation that suspends the fundamental rights of working people to bargain collectively with their employer to get a fair and decent settlement that they can live with. I feel really upset about this, angry about this, and really very disappointed that this is the starting place of this government.

Mr. Speaker, is there any wonder that so many Nova Scotians have so little faith in government and democratic process any more, have so little respect for government and for democratic process, have so little faith because sometimes these processes, unfortunately, show very little faith in the people who sent us here and very little respect for the people who sent us here.

The perception out there is that we are just a bunch of windbags really. We go on and on about nothing and we know very little about the realities of daily life and the hardship and the struggle for people in their daily lives because so often what we are doing here is not improving people's lives, or it is not improving the lives of ordinary Nova Scotians who sent us here. We are using public resources quite often to enrich people who have very little investment in our province and our society. So I am very concerned about this piece of legislation and the message that we are sending.

The bill, Mr. Speaker, before us is entitled An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province. A better title for this bill would be an Act to permit the Hamm Government to break faith with the paramedics of Nova Scotia, or an Act to demonstrate what the government really thinks about paramedics - and that is you cannot be trusted. They are saying this to the very people whom we trust every day, trust in life-and- death situations every day, and this piece of legislation says loud and clear you cannot be trusted by your government. We do not trust you.

This bill should be called an Act to stop paramedics from striking, even though we have not designated you as an essential service and even though we are not prepared to pay you the going rate for such a designation. You know, this is wrong; this is absolutely wrong. This is bad legislation and I think, as legislators, we should be able to do much better. The capacity of this government, so quickly in three montsh, to hurt groups on the bottom is astounding.

It is all about power, Mr. Speaker. I have to wonder what the Minister of Health and the Premier are prepared to do with more powerful groups in the health care system. Let us be realistic here, paramedics are on the bottom of the pile in the health care system. Their work is essential. It is crucial. It is a very important piece of a caring, responsive health care system, yet you could hardly say that such a small number of workers, 650, and a group that have so recently come together into their current configuration is a group that has an enormous amount of power. Yet look how threatened this government has been of such a

[Page 802]

small, in many ways powerless, group of people. Look at the reaction to such a small, powerless group of people. It is mind-boggling, really.

The other day in Health estimates, Mr. Speaker, I asked the Minister of Health questions about CEOs' salaries and other senior personnel in the Department of Health, trying to understand how this government will deal with health care workers. I think it is an important thing for us to understand and there needs to be fairness and equity in the way groups are treated. His answer was that it was important to pay CEOs the going rate, competitive rate, paying people for the jobs that they do. Well, why the double standard? Why are we doing this to this small group of workers, who are financially, in terms of their compensation, on the bottom of the wage scale in the health care services? I don't understand it. I haven't heard the argument. I haven't heard a convincing argument for why this would be the case.

Mr. Speaker, no matter which way you cut it, when you look at these workers, these workers are being exploited, you know. They are expected to carry an extraordinary amount of responsibility in helping our health care system to function, in caring for Nova Scotians, and how do we reward them? How do we respond to them? We pay them $7.00 and $8.00 and $9.00 an hour. Part-time workers at Zellers make more money than some of the paramedics in our health care system. These are highly-skilled workers. These are workers who administer medication. They are workers who respond to accidents. They are workers who go to fires. They are workers who assist in boating accidents and drownings.

It is not the case anymore that what is required to do this work is a driver's license and a lot of nerve. This is skilled work and skilled work requires adequate compensation. These are workers who have been exempted from the Labour Standards Code. These are workers who work on average 56 or more hours a week and receive absolutely, not one cent, of overtime. These are workers who have families. In the election, I met many of these workers and I met many of their family members. Many of them live in my riding in the north end of Halifax.

I can remember one family, in particular, that I met, Mr. Speaker; the mom in this family is a paramedic. She has a young child who is of school age, just in the beginning years of school. She has so little time to spend with her family that as we talked and she told me about the conditions of her work that impinge on her family time, she cried.

Now I heard this government talk in the Speech from the Throne about family values, spending more time with your family, in very broad, general terms. Here we have a scenario where this government has an opportunity to act concretely to improve the lives of a small group of Nova Scotian workers in our health care system and to do it in a fair way, in a compassionate way, in a cooperative way and how do they respond? They take a hammer to a flea. It is unbelievable.

[Page 803]

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is upsetting to many people, not just the workers but their family members and people who live around them in their communities, who know how dedicated these men and women are.

[7:00 p.m.]

Now I think essentially when we look at this legislation we have to ask ourselves, what other options has the government available to it to preserve what they claim is their concern for public safety? Mr. Speaker, a fair and decent offer for better wages and benefits for paramedics would certainly go a long way in ensuring that any of their public safety concerns would be addressed.

This government could have taken a much more balanced approach, Mr. Speaker, by introducing amendments to the Labour Standards Code. We know the Premier promised the day before the election in July that following the election he would introduce amendments to the Labour Standards Code. We have not seen them, where are they? How is it possible that this is the first piece of legislation we see from this government, on paramedics? Can somebody explain this? Can somebody explain why their promises to this group of workers, who we all know, we all went through that election knowing how long the paramedics had been in collective bargaining, we were all concerned.

The former member for Kings West, who was referred to a little earlier today, stood in this House, I believe in this very place, in the first 17 months that I was here, maybe one desk over, on many occasions and talked about getting a fair settlement for the paramedics but he also talked about all of those other things that were required - changes to labour standards, workers' compensation, and we have not seen it. How simple it would be, Mr. Speaker, what a good demonstration to the paramedics of some respect and some faith in them if this particular bill could be withdrawn and the government could go back to the promises it made and carry out those promises and allow the collective bargaining process which is under way to continue.

You know, suspending collective bargaining while negotiations are still going on sends a very bad signal not only to health care workers but to all public sector workers in this province. I listened carefully to the minister when he talked about his rationale for doing this. I am very concerned about some of the points he raised. I listened to the minister on television interviews in the last few weeks talking on this very matter. He was reassuring the public in those interviews that Emergency Measures had a contingency plan in place, that, in fact the contingency plan is part of the contract they have with this government in order to provide services. He provided no details of what that contingency plan might look like.

I am sort of surprised that the minister did not give the public and members of this House the opportunity to know the details of that contingency plan, so we could reassure ourselves that, indeed, there was a contingency plan, that the contingency plan would have

[Page 804]

met the public safety concerns. We have not seen that, we have not seen any of these details. Really, that is our job to know these things, to ask about them, to be presented, to debate them, to look at them, to understand them, to make recommendations on how they could be improved. That would have been a much more sensible approach, a common-sense approach if you will; the government liking to talk about their common sense approach to difficult issues that are confronting them and us.

But this is not a common-sense approach. This is an overreaction. This is suspending collective bargaining while negotiations are ongoing because a strike might occur. Well, with all due respect, that is the way the collective bargaining process works. In all collective bargaining that is going on, ultimately a strike might occur. We have the legislative parameters, they are there. The rules are laid out quite clearly.

What is required in these processes is patience, it is creativity, and it is commitment to making that process work. This government has bailed out of this process before there was any possibility of it working. In a very heavy-handed manner that causes, I think, all of us to question whether or not this is a government that has any idea of fairness.

I think one of the things that government always has to remember is the extraordinary amount of power that government has, to act and exert its will in these situations. The use of that power should always be tempered with some compassion, some wisdom, some fairness and some common sense. I am amazed at the choices this government does make. When given a choice, who are they going to choose? In this case, they certainly haven't chosen those hard-working men and women out there who dedicate their working lives to saving people from serious accidents and other serious situations.

It wasn't so long ago that I had a very good friend who was ill and at home, who got into a fair amount of difficulty in terms of the progress of her illness. When the VON nurses arrived at her home, they found her in an almost semi-comatose state. They immediately called the paramedics and they arrived and moved her over to the QE II.That evening, when I went to see her, she talked about the paramedics who had come to her home and who had transferred her to the QE II. She said that the professionalism and the respect and the decency that they had extended to her that afternoon, she would never forget. Indeed, her family and her friends haven't forgotten the way that these two paramedics treated her at a pretty critical time in her illness.

I hear a fair number of stories about the work of paramedics from people in my riding. The north end of Halifax is one area where there are probably seven or eight senior citizens' manors, including Northwood Manor; Northwood Manor is certainly a long-term care facility, Mr. Speaker, that is in close contact with paramedics on a daily basis. You can hardly spend any time over in that corner of my constituency without seeing the paramedics coming and going and transferring people, sometimes over to the dialysis unit at the QEII or people who are being brought there from other facilities. Additionally, certainly in the senior citizens'

[Page 805]

manors - the public housing senior citizens' manors - people in those manors are so appreciative and so relieved that we have a modern emergency response health care system, and they are absolutely shocked at the wages that these workers are paid.

When I went door-to-door during the election, I met many seniors who talked to me about the paramedic situation and they wanted to know where I, and members of my Party, stood on a fair settlement for the paramedics. Many of these seniors told me in no uncertain terms that their expectation of me, if I was to be successful in the election, was that I would come here and I would fight very hard to ensure that the paramedics had a just settlement, that their wages would no longer remain at those unacceptable rates of pay.

So I think that certainly many of our senior citizens understand because they have had first-hand experience at having to rely on emergency services, so they know what is entailed, the importance of these services in the health care system and in our community, and they understand that the wages that we are paying now are unacceptable, that the time that paramedics are putting in in terms of their hours per week is too high, and in order to maintain a good emergency medical response system, then it is the responsibility of government to address this situation. So I think we have a very big responsibility here to ensure that all people in our health care system are treated properly and that all people in our health care system get the respect that they deserve. This legislation fails to meet that test, I think, of being fair and certainly of being respectful.

Now, I think that the workers were down here today to talk to us as legislators, to encourage us to rethink the direction of this legislation and to find some other ways to deal with the current situation, certainly withdrawing this bill, although it would appear that the government is stubborn and they are implacably committed to bulldozing ahead regardless of what the paramedics and what members of Opposition Parties have to say, and I think that must be very discouraging for Nova Scotians generally to observe today. I think that many people in Nova Scotia took the Premier at his word, as Nova Scotians are likely to do, to be generous and give people the best opportunity to live up to what they say.

[7:15 p.m.]

When the Premier talked about doing things differently, being a different kind of government, of consultation and of working with members of the Opposition, I think he genuinely was expressing what people wanted government to say and what people want the Premier of our province to say, which is that a democratic process is not about only hearing from the majority. Democracy is not about hearing only from people with the most numbers, democracy is also about hearing from people who don't have the most numbers. For a healthy democracy, you have to find ways for the minorities to have their voices heard and to be respected in that process and, in fact, to be able to have an impact on the directions that government takes and the decisions that are made.

[Page 806]

I think that perhaps what the Premier was thinking about after the election, was for a way to have a more democratic process that really reflected a broad view. This particular piece of legislation and the manner of the debate on this legislation in terms of amendments that we saw happen here today, Mr. Speaker, really undermines the goodwill that is required to have a Legislature work in a democratic fashion where the voices of the minority not only get heard, but get considered and have an opportunity to influence the ultimate decisions.

So this too causes me a lot of concern. I think that the cloak of democratic principles and the kind of perception that the Premier was putting forward after the election, I guess, that this was going to be a different kind of government, one that was going to be more willing to work with all members and all Parties, this cloak now is being ripped off and we are seeing the real John Hamm Government. I would have to say that I am not really impressed with what I see. In fact, I am extremely disappointed by what I see. I think that certainly people in my constituency would want me to say that. They would want me to say that very clearly here today, that this is not a good thing that is happening here, Mr. Speaker. It is very worrisome, especially at this stage in the game and especially in combination with a number of other things that now have occurred in the last couple of weeks.

So, Mr. Speaker, I can't even begin to imagine how the paramedics must be feeling, the paramedics who have come here today to watch us do our work. It's not only that they have been at this for a long time, I think when you go through a process of collective bargaining, first of all of getting into a new bargaining unit, that's a very stressful process, really, that kind of change and upheaval. The whole restructuring of emergency services is very stressful. These people, these men and women, are so dedicated to what it is that they do, and they have hung in for so long, and to have it come down to this, to have their struggle, their commitment, end in this way, it must be extraordinarily galling for one thing and it must really - I think there was a young woman on the news the other night who said she was heartsick about what is occurring.

They have been negotiating for a long time. They negotiated with the former government and they were unable to reach a settlement with them. I think that when you have a change in government, a new government, you become quite optimistic and you think something can happen here, then on top of that to have the Premier campaign in the election and make the kinds of promises - and I would be, if I was a betting person, which I am not, but I would bet that there are probably many paramedics who received copies of resolutions from the former member for Kings West, great statements and commitments to work hard for them, and then to come here and see what exactly is occurring must feel like such a betrayal. It must feel like such a betrayal that I can only imagine what that must be like.

I think that in the coming days if the government continues to use the rules and use their numbers to ram through this very regressive piece of legislation, we will do the best we can to stand in our places and say what members of our constituencies who we represent would expect us to say I think, Mr. Speaker, but ultimately it may be a fait accompli in terms of this

[Page 807]

bill, but I can assure members of this government and I can assure members from the paramedics union that members here in this caucus will not give up. This is not the end. This is just the beginning because members here will not forget and Nova Scotians will not forget where this government chose to start its legislative agenda.

The messages that this sends about their approach, you know, this is a government that likes to talk about the importance of creating an environment that is friendly for business. Mr. Speaker, an environment where you have labour instability that is dealt with by a government that is lacking in good faith is not an environment that is attractive at all for business, particularly the kind of business we would want in this province. We would want business that understands the value of a stable labour environment that is built on sound labour legislation and good solid democratic process that respects labour legislation.

So this legislation is not only potentially very bad for paramedics and their families but it sends a very bad message to other public sector workers and it also sends a very bad message, I think, to employers generally about where this government stands with respect to the rights of working people in Nova Scotia and what they will tolerate from an employer. Government has to set the standard. Government has a wonderful opportunity, as an employer, and let's be clear here, government provides almost all of the money, if not all of the money in the Emergency Services, for emergency medical care. So government has an opportunity, and indeed, a responsibility to be a role model, if you will, for what an employer should be like, how an employer should behave.

An employer who is not prepared to use the processes that are available to him to reach negotiated settlements with his workers, what kind of an employer is that, Mr. Speaker? What does that say to private industry? You don't have to really worry about these processes, they are not that important, they can be suspended whenever there is some little problem. We are not prepared to talk things out and reach negotiated, reasonable solutions. So the message that this legislation is sending is to many people and it is a very bad message.

I think with those remarks I will take my place. Before I do that, Mr. Speaker, I want to say one last thing, that although we are quite far into this process, I suppose, on this bill, I think Nova Scotians would be genuinely impressed with this government if they could admit at this stage that they made a mistake and pull back, take it back, let the process work. It would be a remarkable sign of good will and it would really, I think, support the perception that the Premier was attempting to create of a government that was going to genuinely respect Nova Scotians and work with Nova Scotians to try to improve the functioning of government so that, in fact, when we come here and take our places we really do take our places and do work that improves the lives of all Nova Scotians and that we do make a difference and we don't run roughshod over people who contribute a lot to our society. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 808]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I rise and stand in my place here it doesn't give me much pleasure to have to enter into the debate on this type of legislation. It certainly doesn't give me pleasure for a number of reasons but, more particularly, for the reason that is obvious to everybody in this place, that with the hammer that is employed by the honourable members across the floor, that is going to be employed sometime this week, we know where this legislation is going because I haven't seen any indication from this government that they have seen the error of their ways in bringing this legislation to the House and that is not likely to change in the next couple of days. So the remarks that I am going to make are certainly remarks that I wish I didn't have to make here today, this evening, and over the next few days, witness what we are going to witness here, both in Law Amendments and in Committee of the Whole House on Bills when the bill comes back here and, eventually, third reading.

[7:30 p.m.]

You saw the spectacle today, Mr. Speaker, of what the government said to Nova Scotians, said to the members of this House, said to anybody who was watching or listening, that they intend to run the agenda of this House. They said today that they would not allow any amendments to come before the House, rather they would let the amendments be dealt with in Law Amendments. Any amendments would come by way of Law Amendments. (Interruption) Where are they going to come from then if they are not going to come from in here?

AN HON. MEMBER: Law Amendments.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, okay. Law Amendments is a committee controlled by the government. The agenda of Law Amendments is controlled by the government. The number of people who come before Law Amendments is controlled by the government and the amount of time they are allowed to speak is controlled by the government, including the Chair. So is that a democratic process? At least in here, the people who are most concerned about this bill, the paramedics and their families, could hear and see the debate going on about three amendments that could have possibly come before this House.

One, of course, is an amendment that would see the bill hoisted for a period of time so it could be given more consideration. The second one would be a reasoned amendment to the bill that we see before the House here today. The third, a referral of the whole subject to a committee of the House. None of these amendments is now permitted to come before this House; not one of them. Where they are going to be considered, along with other amendments, will be in the Law Amendments Committee, a committee that is controlled by

[Page 809]

the government and, for the most part, out of sight, the committee that is over in the other room. The government will make up its mind how long they are going to spend over there.

I heard an interesting comment, Mr. Speaker, this afternoon from the Premier, who stated that he would like to get this bill through before Friday of this week, when he was talking to a group of paramedics and the press downstairs. We are now limited to 22 hours of debate in this House on second reading. Once the bill leaves here, it will go to the Law Amendments Committee and back here for another 20 hours in Committee of the Whole House on Bills and then on to third reading. I think it is the responsibility of every member of this House, whether they be with the Liberal Party or the NDP, to speak as long as we can in support of the paramedics and their plight here, and that includes in Committee of the Whole House and it includes third reading. So if the Premier thinks that he is going to ram this bill through before Friday of this week, we better get set to go around the clock for the next few days. I see the government caucus chairman nodding approvingly of that.

I want to talk about something else - the timing of this debate. The Government House Leader, last Friday, approached me and said, we are going to start Monday at 12:00 p.m. and we are going until 2:00 a.m. I said to him, Mr. Government House Leader, we have eight members of our Party, of which I am the House Leader, who live in Cape Breton who would have to leave home at 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. to get up here and then attend a 14 hour session in this House. I asked him if he would consider coming in at 2:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon instead of 12:00 and they said, no. It is almost as if they were saying, well, maybe a few of those Cape Bretoners will not be able to make it in time. But we are here and we are up and we are talking. So I want to thank the Government House Leader for that consideration last Friday.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're welcome.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The honourable gentleman across says, you're welcome. That is fine. Another comment that the Premier made some time ago, in his run to the finish line for government of this province, was that he would permit free votes in the House among his Party. Now I don't expect the Cabinet to be involved in that free vote, because any Cabinet member that would have the guts to stand up against this bill would not be in Cabinet five minutes after that. I know that. He or she would be gone. But there are a lot of backbenchers over there. I am sure that their constituents want to know how they are going to vote, how the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is going to vote, how the member for Kings North is going to vote, the member for Preston, for Eastern Shore, for Digby-Annapolis, for Yarmouth, for Shelburne. Their constituents and the paramedics of those areas of the province want to know how they are going to vote, Mr. Speaker, when this bill eventually comes down to a vote.

[Page 810]

The spectacle that we also witnessed here today was of the Government House Leader trying to get up and call for a vote while we had a member standing to debate this bill, who wasn't recognized, apparently, in time.

AN HON. MEMBER: Check Hansard on that.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: That is right. We should check Hansard on that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hansard shows that the member for Cape Breton West was recognized.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, there again. They are using their hammer. The Speaker ruled that we could proceed in the way that would curtail any talk about amendments in the House here. I want to turn the clock back a moment to December 1, 1997. This has probably been already stated, but I want to read a resolution here and I will table it.

"Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas paramedics across Nova Scotia provide an important and vital public service; and

Whereas paramedics are not given the same basic rights and protection under the Minimum Wage Order, the Labour Standards Code and the Workers' Compensation Act as most other working Nova Scotians; and

Whereas many paramedics in Nova Scotia continue to work up to 120 hours per week under difficult working conditions, putting the safety of patients at risk;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health meet with representatives of the NSGEU and representatives of rural paramedics not presently members of the NSGEU, to discuss work-related concerns and, further, that he urge the Minister of Labour and the Chief Executive Officer of the Workers' Compensation Board to move quickly in extending the rights and protection afforded other Nova Scotian workers to Nova Scotia's paramedics.".

That resolution was by Mr. Ronald Russell, who is now the Government House Leader. That resolution was by the Government House Leader . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Labour.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, the current Minister of Labour and former member of the Opposition. That resolution, by the way, those resolutions are available if anybody would like them and I will table this one if anybody would care to take it.

[Page 811]

I also want to turn the clock back to Thursday, March 25, 1999.

"Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas despite seeing an improvement in their living conditions, paramedics across Nova Scotia are still faced in some cases with 100 hour work weeks, paying less than $7.00 an hour; and

Whereas ambulance service at the present time in many regions of Nova Scotia has plenty of questions that need answering; and

Whereas unless over 800 paramedics are able to reach an agreement with their employer on a new working contract in the coming weeks, Nova Scotians will see more than 800 paramedics on strike and ambulance service in a state of chaos;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health, knowing that job action by paramedics is not too far off, move to ensure an adequate contract agreement is reached between the two sides, and in the process ensure Nova Scotians that in the event of an emergency, an ambulance is hopefully only a phone call away.".

That was by Mr. George Moody, a former Health Minister of this province and a member of that Party. I'll just go back to something he said there. He says also, "Whereas ambulance service at the present time . . . has plenty of questions that need answering;". Well, one of the things that needed answering was fixed, the condition of the ambulances themselves. That was fixed. It wasn't fixed by that member or that Minister of Health, but they didn't go all the way, they didn't practice what the members of this House were preaching they should do in terms of looking after the people who are in these ambulances, namely the paramedics.

Now I also want to go back to Monday, July 26, 1999 - and I'll table this for anybody who wants to have a look at it - and it gives out some specific promises by the Hamm Government. Our, ". . . health care platform lays out very specific commitments . . . We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives.". This is the Hamm document. (Interruption) "My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standards laws of this province - and we will proceed with that legislation if elected . . .". Well, they proceeded with the legislation all right, but it wasn't protecting them. It is putting them out of business in their negotiation attempts.

AN HON. MEMBER: Was that the Hamminator who said that?

[Page 812]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Just as we made health care our number one priority in the last election, we do so again in this campaign. So, this Premier opposite and his government, certainly lived up to that promise. We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. Mr. Speaker, he states, "My party has already drafted legislation to provide them fair treatment.". I will table that document, as well. That's another one from the Hamm Government.

Now I said earlier, and I am appealing to the backbenchers of the government, your Leader has already stated that you can vote your conscience in that Party. That great open Party called the Tory Government of Nova Scotia has turned its backbenchers loose, if they want, to vote their conscience when this bill finally comes to a vote. We are going to be able to test that, to see what kind of backbone is over there in the backbenches. Or, are they all looking to get in Cabinet? Once they start filing in the front rows like tenpins over the next year, they are all going to try to move up. (Interruptions) Well, we will see. When you go back home to your constituencies, I think the people of those constituencies will tell you how they feel you should vote on this issue.

I might add, you are free to vote. You are not a part of the government, you are members of this Legislature. It is only these front row people who are members of this government, that have to toe the line, and a couple of supernumeraries in the second row. (Laughter) Those are the members of the government, not the backbenchers. You people are MLAs from your constituencies, can vote your conscience on this issue and I am certainly asking you to do this. (Interruption) Supernumerary means not really necessary.

Let me talk about this particular bill in the context - and I think the good people in the gallery who are very interested in this should also know this, that this is just the sign of things to come from this government. This is the sign of things to come. When this government in the first weeks of its mandate would do the kinds of Draconian things that have been done in this House, or by press release, or by Cabinet edict, to attack the most vulnerable in our society in Nova Scotia, not the people who have dinner in the Halifax Club, not the people who are friends of the government, but the people in this province who are disabled, or the people in this province who depend on the Winter Works Program, or the people in this province who depend on government programs for their very survival and have depended on them. Institutions like Loaves and Fishes and Transition House and Home for the Homeless, those kinds of institutions that this government so callously cut off, especially in my own county where a number of them for years have been able to access these programs, to employ people and provide a service to a lot of less-fortunate people than anybody sitting in this House.

[Page 813]

[7:45 p.m.]

Now you have turned your attention to the paramedics. They are the next vulnerable lot that you are going to put the hammer to. They are the next slice with the knife. I said it here the other day, what you have is Prince John and his Finance Minister, the Sheriff of Nottingham, who by the way, has not graced this House since some day last week. I do not know where he has gone. (Interruption) He is the Sheriff of Argyle but, you know, what is he going to do? He is going to hide until the bill is through. (Interruption) There is a good Party talking about $500 million.

As my seatmate sometime earlier today said, they came back in with the same health money that we went to the polls with. Ours was over three years, as you recall, and you came back in, you decided you could not do it for $46 million, now you are up to $200 million. Do not talk about fiscal responsibility. The Tories in this province should never talk about fiscal responsibility because . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask that the honourable member remind himself of the rules of debate. He is certainly a seasoned member in the Legislature and I have granted him a lot of leeway and latitude, but I would ask him to get back to second reading and the title of this bill - An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I could not agree with you more. Mr. Speaker, I know some of these paramedics personally. Some of them are good friends of mine, as a matter of fact. They are all fine, upstanding citizens, asked to work in a very important public service and if there is ever a group that is working on a labour of love, it is these fellows and girls because I will tell you why. They are certainly not working for cash in this business. These men and women are out there serving the first line of service to people with health problems in this province, emergency health problems. (Interruption)

The Minister of Health wants to know why it was not done. It was under negotiation but let me say this to the Minister of Health, you can solve this very easily. Just go to their employer, like you said you were going to do - or the Premier said you were going to do - we must get involved in this negotiation - and tell the employer that you will assist the employer in trying to bring this to a conclusion, not put the hammer on them in this House, because what you have done by doing that is, you have given the edge to the employer. You have taken their negotiation rights away from them because the employer can sit back now and say the government, by the end of this week, is going to have legislation in place that curtails any action that we might have to take anyway. So the employer can then give them whatever the hell he wants to give them. (Interruption) If that is the worse word you are going to hear from me in this session of the House, then it will be well served, let me tell you.

[Page 814]

There is an old saying, Mr. Speaker, that Tory times are tough times, particularly evident in Cape Breton over the years. They still say it down there. That is why most Tories lose their majorities, or lose their deposits in Cape Breton, and it will be a long time before we see any evidence of any Tory support down there, but I will tell you the people up here are going to catch on too. They are going to catch on too because Tory times are tough times.

The Minister of Health likes to put a brave face on what is happening here today, that we are doing the right thing. Well, I have yet to hear of anything that has been done right in this particular bill. What you have done is introduce a Draconian measure that does not need to be here.

If this government is so concerned about the paramedics and their plight, why doesn't the Minister of Health, or the Premier, tell Nova Scotians that this very essential group should be deemed or named an essential service in this province, treated accordingly and paid accordingly. That would settle the problem. Sit down and negotiate a fair settlement with them and deem them to be a necessary service in this province, a service that we cannot do without and a service that we should adequately compensate. Not have them out there working for minimum wage, and then, because they cannot reach a settlement by this week you are going to legislate them out of business in terms of negotiation powers.

Mr. Speaker, again, the government has said that this bill is going to go through by Friday of this week, under any circumstances. The Government House Leader told me that earlier tonight. Well, I don't think that is going to happen, at least it is not going to happen with the support of this caucus. I cannot speak for the Party to my left, but I am sure they would echo my sentiments in that regard, but I will let them speak for themselves.

I can tell you that the comments I have had from people and the comments that have been unsolicited, actually, have been, how can the government do this when negotiations were proceeding? Sure, a settlement is not reached, but the government tilted the process in favour of the employer by bringing this bill in here. Mr. Speaker, I suggest that that is going to be the norm in the future here, not the exception and we are going to have to remind Nova Scotians of that fact.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 9 is a bill that, as I said earlier, I didn't want to get up and speak about, I am sure that nobody takes any pleasure in getting up and speaking to that bill. It shouldn't be here. I think the first two lines I have on this bullet here says that we in this House should all be disappointed and extremely concerned about this piece of legislation.

The paramedics have been here twice trying to tell the government about their problem, trying to encourage the government to listen to them, to listen to their plight. It is falling on deaf ears. To hear the Premier talk to the media downstairs about the need to tell the paramedics that in the end they will be pleased with this. Fear not, said Prince John, in the end

[Page 815]

you paramedics will be pleased with this. You will be pleased with the fact that they just took the edge off your negotiating process and gave it to the employer. The Sheriff of Nottingham is not even here to steal any more money from the poor people of the province this week, he must be out talking to some other people across the country trying to devise more ways to cut and slash here in Nova Scotia.

When this government talks about looking after their friends in Nova Scotia they make a public statement they are not going to give any more money to big business in this province, and they are not in office three weeks and everybody that walked through the door got a cheque. All big business interests from this area of the province, right here, with a five per cent unemployment rate in metro Halifax. Why didn't some of that money go to the paramedics that you gave to the Bank of Nova Scotia, Mr. Economic Development Minister? (Interruption) We didn't give it to them.(Interruption) No, we didn't. (Interruption) Listen, there is an Order in Council that shows it. The government, on taking office, stated, no more loans, we are going to do business differently in Nova Scotia. There have been three announcements all to big business here (Interruption). Now you are trying to legislate their power away. Don't talk to me about fairness.

The paramedics who are here this week and were here last week are at a crossroads in negotiations. Sure, they have had an impasse, but that is not something that has never happened before in this province; that is collective bargaining and arbitration. That is a process that can be worked out with a little help. I suggest that the government promised to provide that help and then reneged on it. You promised that in your election platform, and now you are reneging on it. I think it is terrible that you are reneging on that. You promised that. You promised it to health workers, you promised to paramedics, and instead of keeping that promise, you come in with a piece of legislation that is going to adversely affect them in future negotiations with their employer. In other words, they don't have any hammer anymore. You will probably end up driving the good people who work in this business out of this business, out of the province to employ their skills somewhere else at much better wages.

The minister said this was an issue between the employees and their employer. If that is the case, what are we doing here with a piece of legislation tonight if it is an issue between the employer and the employee? I suggest, instead of doing that, that the minister act as a third party and sit down with the other two parties here, get involved, provide the necessary financial help, if necessary, to supplement whatever the employer is agreeing to here so that we can get a settlement.

These people aren't looking for a fortune. These people are looking for a living wage, for heavens sake. We are not talking about people here who are making big dollars, (Interruption). The honourable member for Antigonish says why didn't you give them one. We settled almost every problem we had with public servants in this province, including health care workers over the last two years.

[Page 816]

I suggest to you, if we were sitting over there, this one would be settled too, like all the rest of them were; not by Draconian legislation in this House. You should be ashamed of yourself for even mentioning that here tonight. What you have done here tonight is guarantee that negotiations are going to cease, because the employer doesn't have to negotiate anymore. The employer doesn't have to negotiate, all the employer has to do now is wait until this legislation passes and say, okay, who wants to come to work for what I am telling you you are going to get. That will be the end of their negotiation process.

The government will sit back and say, well, we got that crowd out of the way. Now who are we going after next week? Is it going to be the teachers, is it going to be more health care workers, is it going to be the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union? Who is it going to be? Who is it going to be? Are we going to start closing hospitals?

The paramedics have demonstrated their willingness to bargain in good faith. They have had a couple of votes, I understand, and didn't take the meagre offer, as I understand was given to them. Process works, negotiation works. The previous government in this province, the Minister of Health leading the charge, solved a number of these problems in the health care field by negotiation. We didn't bring in any legislation that was going to put the hammer on anybody.

We negotiated these settlements. We negotiated with them in nursing homes. We negotiated with them in the Nova Scotia Government Employees Unions. We negotiated with the nurses. Yes, I will admit the negotiations with the paramedics took a long time. It was a first contract. To take a mish-mash of employment situations across the province, very few contracts, to try to bring this whole thing together was a gigantic exercise. No question about it. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, and we had hoped that the new government would carry on in that spirit. But no, no, we see legislation coming before the House now forcing their hand.

[8:00 p.m.]

We, as a government, have a responsibility to interfere in this process at this time. We can't have people working in this essential service, and I said it before here tonight, this is an essential service and the government should recognize that and the government should ensure that the people who are practising in that essential service are paid adequately for their services and are given decent working conditions in terms of the hours that they must work in the service of other Nova Scotians every week.

What you have here, Mr. Speaker, is a group of workers, essential service workers, in my opinion and in the opinion of members of the Liberal Party and, I suspect, members of the NDP, as well, who are very unhappy. They are very unhappy because of the uncertainty of where they are going. When you have an unhappy worker working in an emergency situation, you have a problem. These people and others who are employed in this business are working

[Page 817]

in emergency situations all the time. I suggest that we are not only putting them at risk, but we are putting the people they serve at risk by this uncertainty.

I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that over the next few days and weeks, you might see some of these workers getting very frustrated and saying, it is not worth it; even though I love my job, I love serving Nova Scotians, I love looking after those who need my medical services. No longer are we talking about people who all they could do, perhaps, when they attended a call, was to transport somebody because of lack of training or lack of facilities. We are not talking about those people anymore. We are talking about trained paramedics who are driving vehicles in this province that are at least many times better than the vehicles - and I won't use the word we normally use for the vehicles that were running the roads in this province until we took over.

AN HON. MEMBER: Meat wagons.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Somebody else did it for me. The honourable member says, meat wagons. To hear the previous Minister of Health in the previous Tory Government, prior to the MacLellan Government taking power in this province, tell us what a wonderful emergency system they had in the province, had to be the joke of the century. The Tories paid no attention to it when they were there between 1978 and 1993, except to look after their friends. They didn't train anybody. They didn't provide any half-decent facilities. I suggest to you that we made a start on that by providing the facilities and the training and to ensure that we have adequately trained paramedics in this province.

The final step is to look after the paramedics, not by enforcing legislation on this House, but by providing the public means to ensure that they get a fair settlement. You have the power to do that, Mr. Premier and Mr. Finance Minister and Mr. Health Minister. You have the power to sit down with the employer and tell them what it is going to take to settle this impasse, what it is going to take to relieve the anxiety of the paramedics who are here tonight and the other paramedics who are employed in this business. What is it going to take? I think it is an investment that we need to take. What we don't need to do here is put legislation on the table that is going to, clearly, give the employer here the upper hand in dealing with a very important essential service.

The other thing you need to do as a government, Mr. Premier, is to tell Nova Scotians that, yes, you consider this an essential service, as much as any other service would be deemed essential, and more so than would be deemed to be an essential service in this province. After all, anybody's relative in this room who has an emergency situation depends on them as their first line of support.The first support system is the paramedic in an emergency situation, not to transport anymore but the initial treatment as well, to stabilize. So they don't have to run over somebody driving 90 miles an hour trying to get to the hospital, they stabilize them on the scene, which was not the case in the past either. The poor people of Nova Scotia who didn't have this service in the past paid dearly for it. Today, I

[Page 818]

suggest to you, a lot of lives were saved in this province because of the paramedics and because of the service they were able to render immediately - not after they were transported miles to somewhere, but immediately.

We should not forget that. We should not try to treat this lightly. We should not be able to go out and look anybody in the eye and say, yes, we believe all of that, we believe that paramedics are important, we believe that paramedics are an essential service and are necessary, but we can only pay them $7.00 or $8.00 an hour. What kind of message is that sending? That that is all they are worth? Sure, some of them make $10 an hour, some of them even make $12, I have heard. Isn't that great; isn't that something we should be proud of. I am sure that your relatives who have had to use the service, and my relatives and relatives of honourable members on this side as well, would be very happy to hear that that is all the people were worth, who perhaps in some cases saved their lives. That is a telling statement in this province.

It can be solved; this problem can be solved with the intervention of the Minister of Health and the Premier, who is a doctor, who knows of what I speak because he has had first-hand situations he has dealt with in the past, and he knows what is happening now in Nova Scotia regarding emergency services, compared to what used to happen in Nova Scotia with regard to emergency services. He knows, the people upstairs here know, and I suggest that everybody in this House knows, prior to the 1990's, the emergency system in this province was nothing short of a disgrace and the government did nothing about it. From 1978 until 1993 it did absolutely nothing about it.

Well, as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, a start was made and, unfortunately, we didn't get to finish that journey. Sure, there were some mistakes made and the people of Nova Scotia, in their wisdom, decided it was time for a change, in July. They changed the Government of Nova Scotia, but I think in doing so they expected more from the Hamm Government. They didn't expect what they are now becoming accustomed to on a daily basis in this province, the cutting and the slashing of groups in this province who can't even defend themselves in most cases, because they don't have the corporate power to, or they don't have influence in government.

What they are doing, Mr. Speaker, under the guise of saying they are going to reduce the debt and the deficit in this province, is they are doing it on the backs of those who could least afford the hit.

Now, is that right? I don't think it is. I don't think we should be talking about groups like the groups I mentioned earlier, the disabled, the people in this province who support their fellow citizens with programs in the community. There are many of them in Cape Breton, it is almost like a way of life that people support each other very significantly down there in Cape Breton County, and throughout the province as well. We have the food banks up here and we have some community organizations that I am familiar with in all parts of the

[Page 819]

province, but sometimes I tend to mention Cape Breton a little bit more because I happen to be from there, and I am sure that every member in this House would do likewise in talking about their own area.

I am very familiar with those organizations and I am familiar with the paramedics who live in my community, and I know the service they give to that community on a daily basis. But in this particular case, Mr. Speaker, it is all emergency service. It is all about first response. It is all about the trust that we put in paramedics. How do we repay that? How do we repay them for going out and doing emergency service in all kinds of weather, all hours of the day and night, 50 hours, 60 hours, 70 hours a week? We give them $7.00, $8.00, sometimes $10 and yes, sometimes $12 an hour. That is how we repay that. This government wants to take a hands-off approach to this situation, this problem.

Paramedics in this province, Mr. Speaker, don't want to get rich on the job. All they want is a decent wage. All they want is to be able to do their job and I mentioned earlier that they are certainly not in this for the cash. They are in it as a labour of love. They are like many other public servants that I know personally, who work on behalf of their brothers and sisters, on behalf of their relatives, on behalf of people they don't even know in this province, to provide a service. The union made many concessions as far as I am concerned, from what I have heard. I haven't heard anything to the contrary. They weren't going to go out en masse if they failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion to this matter. They were going to do it in an orderly fashion and rotate their strike plan.

What has the government done? All the government has done is introduced a piece of legislation to tell the employer, do with them as you will because the employer now has the hammer. The employer now has the hammer if this bill goes through and this bill will go through because I don't think the backbenchers who I am appealing to over there, have the collective guts to stand up and vote against this bill when it comes to a vote. I think they are going to toe the Party line, not what Premier Hamm said in the election, vote for the Tories, vote for our government and we are going to allow free votes. Every member of the Party is going to be an individual thinker, except the Cabinet, of course, if they want to stay in Cabinet. They are a member of the government.

As I look over there, I see many members who aren't members of the government. They are MLAs, the same as we are. (Interruption) They are MLAs and I am on the bill. I am talking about voting on this bill. I suggest to the members opposite that if you are not part of this government, and you aren't as MLAs, you'll find that out as the weeks and months go on, that you have very little to say in the decision-making. Your voice will be heard if you stand up here and take a stand on some issues such as this one.

The members opposite would love to turn the clock back and talk about the previous government. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the government I was associated with, had a conscience. We negotiated successfully (Interruption) Well, the Government House Leader

[Page 820]

is laughing over there. He came from the 1978 - 1993 era when there was a scandal a week in Nova Scotia, not one in an administration, but a scandal a week. He talks about fairness and the need to get this bill through, and says I am going to ram this bill through because it is in the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia. In whose best interests? The only best interests this could be is the particular employer that employs the paramedics. It can't be in anybody else's best interests because if the government stepped up to the table here and sat down with both Parties, they could reach a settlement without resorting to Bill No. 9, which I consider to be a Draconian piece of legislation that is not needed in order to effect a satisfactory conclusion to this impasse.

As I said before, these people aren't looking for a fortune, they are looking for a living wage. I could not believe it when I first heard what kind of money they were making. I just could not believe it, that no province like Nova Scotia (Interruption) We did do something and you know that.

[8:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you and to members of this House that if we had been returned in July, this piece of legislation would not be here. There would be a settlement now as there was with every other public sector union that we dealt with in the last year, every single one of them, including parity in the Public Service with nurses and nursing home care workers. We did that and we were well on our way to looking after this problem until this gang took over. Now we are going to see what a right-wing agenda looks like in this province. We are going to see that for the next couple of years. This is not the first back to work legislation we are going to see. We are probably going to see one a week. We should take a pool to see who is next.

Do we need to resort to this type of legislation? Why can't we give these people some measure of comfort here? We are not talking about a huge amount of money. We are talking about fairness. We are talking about the Minister of Health, the Premier and his Finance Minister sitting down with the employer and the employee and hammering out an agreement. It has been done before.

Our Minister of Health and our Finance Minister did it last year on a number of occasions, when we were, yes, at the eleventh hour in some cases, but we got those agreements. I am suggesting to this House that this agreement can be reached with that type of support, with that type of situation where all parties are sitting down to try to achieve the same end. Not to be confrontational, not to be putting workers in this province in a position where not only if they do not even know if they have a job, but they do not know if they can pay their bills, and at the same time they are out trying to save lives in this community.

[Page 821]

To hear members of this House on the government side say they are going to ram this through by Friday of this week, they should be proud of themselves. They should be proud of themselves saying they are going to ram this through. They have already given the employer a heads-up. They have already said to the employer we are on your side, we are not on the side of the paramedics, we are on your side. If they will not work for that kind of money, somebody else will. That is what they probably are saying. Never mind that they are trained professionals. Never mind that they are essential workers.

I want to tell the Premier that he should be coming out and saying that these workers are essential and necessary in this province and working towards providing them with a standard of living that fits that category. In other words, they are out there saving lives. They should be paid adequately for doing that.

Like I said, Mr. Speaker, I could not believe when I heard the kind of money they were being paid and also I could not believe it when I heard this legislation was coming in here because I would have thought that they would have done like we did - sat down and negotiated these contracts. We negotiated a number of them last year through the good efforts of the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance in the MacLellan Government. We did not have any back-to-work legislation before the House. We negotiated and settled all these contracts with health care workers, with Nova Scotia Government employees, various locals. We settled all these. You know we settled them all. Some of you sat in this House when we settled them all. You did not see any protracted debate, extended hours on debate in here to deal with back-to-work legislation.

What you saw were ministerial statements saying that we settled this agreement or we settled that agreement. Sure, there were long, hard, protracted and sometimes not very nice negotiations, but the process worked. We didn't have to employ a hammer that this majority government is employing over here to achieve their goal. Obviously, their goal must be to tell Nova Scotians, look out, here we come, this is the first piece of legislation.

I want to say, again, to the Premier. Mr. Premier, during the election campaign you said that your members would be able to have free votes. I am not talking about your Cabinet, I am talking about members, MLAs who are not in your government, but are MLAs representing various constituencies throughout this province. I ask you, Mr. Premier, to make a statement backing up what you said before, that you will allow your members a free vote on this bill and that you will allow them to vote their conscience or, more importantly, if they don't have that, if they can't muster that up, then they can vote with the wishes of their constituents. I suggest that they should go and check with their constituents before they blindly follow the front benches over there in voting for this particular piece of legislation.

I suggest to you, also, Mr. Premier, that your hurry to get this bill through the House is going to meet with some resistance over the next few days, as it should. You have not been in office three months and we have got some of the most Draconian, some of the most

[Page 822]

devious legislation and slicing of programs in this province to disadvantaged groups that I have ever seen in a long time in this province. You have only been here three months. Imagine what Nova Scotia is going to look like in three years if this agenda is liable to proceed.

Are we going to see back to work legislation on a regular basis every time somebody flexes a muscle. I don't necessarily agree with strikes. For the most part, I don't agree with them. It doesn't solve anything. But I do agree with sitting down and hammering out agreements. If the will is there and, in this case, the government has to come to the table and the government can come to the table if the government wants to come to the table here. Because, I will refer, again, to some of the election promises here, I don't even have to look it up. We are going to treat the paramedics fairly. That was in the election campaign, just before the election. We will treat them fairly. We will ensure that they get treated fairly.

I heard the Premier talking to the paramedics today and saying, don't worry, at the end of this, you are going to be better off. You will be happy when this is over. That is what he said to the paramedics and to the press, you will be happy when this is over. Well, that is a pretty bold statement to make. I will believe that when I see it. I think they would be happier if the government sat down with the workers and their employer and hammered out an agreement. I think they would be much more happier than that, rather than have the hammer being given away to the employer, which is what is happening here. The employer has no more incentive to negotiate anything with this group now. Once this bill goes through, the employers can simply say, take it or leave it. If you don't like it, you can't go on strike. If you don't like that, go get a job somewhere else. That is what the employer can say.

Then, if a number of workers, paramedics, professionals, essential service people, decide that they have had enough with the Nova Scotia Government and the system and leave, then the employer will have to recruit other people and train them. Guess where they will come for the training money? They will come to the government. The government will set up some program to train a whole bunch of new paramedics, instead of looking after the ones that are there now that are already trained. That is what the government will do.

They could have put more money on the table, Mr. Speaker. Why would they circumvent a process now, a process they were so anxious to get involved in a couple of weeks ago and, before the election, promised to? Why, all of a sudden, has there been a change? By the way, I am not surprised there is a change, but I am wondering why, all of a sudden.

Let me go back to something I said a little while ago about appealing to members opposite who are not on the front benches or the supernumeraries on the second benches.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are we on the second benches?

[Page 823]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: No, you are not even that far. I am talking about the Cabinet Ministers that are on the second (Interruptions) Rodney pointed to himself and I just recognized him, that is all.

This is not the government's only option. I am appealing to members opposite who are MLAs, whom I think are fair-minded people, give this its due consideration. Give this a look, give it a hard look, because it is not good legislation. Not only is it not good legislation, but I suggest to you that you will be flying in the face of your constituents in this regard when they know the truth here, when they know what is going on here, when they know what kind of money the people in their community make who are out there working on their behalf on an emergency basis.

I think most members are fair; I think all members are honourable. I would ask that you give this consideration. Your Premier has already said that he won't do anything if you have a free vote. This is an open administration that the Tories are operating, and the Premier has said do whatever you want. If you don't like this legislation, vote against it. He has already said you can do that. That is the new way in Nova Scotia, that great openness. So on this particular bill, no he has said on all bills, free vote. I will allow free votes.

The fact that he promised to be fair with these people, he should be ever fairer and allow his members to vote their conscience on this bill. Free them up because you said you were going to do that. I think that perhaps we might be able to overturn this bill if we have enough people from the backbenches, from the governing side of the House, honourable members opposite, that we might send this bill where it belongs, in the garbage can, and get back to negotiations with the government at the table to try and come to a settlement here that is just, for these workers.

I think we are setting the stage on this side of the House to be repeating this, Mr. Premier and members of the Cabinet, in the next few weeks, because I think that this is only the start of some more unnecessary legislation that is going to be coming before this House to put the hammer on employees in this province without resorting to the kind of negotiation that was so successful in the previous government here, under the previous Health Minister, the previous Finance Minister and Russell MacLellan, the previous Premier of this province who negotiated successfully.

We didn't need to come in here with any Draconian legislation. We settled these issues and settled them to the benefit of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and to the employees that we are here to serve as well. I suggest to you, Mr. Premier, and your government that you too have a responsibility to get back to the table and settle this matter. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 824]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make an introduction. There are nine Scouts and four leaders from the 36th Halifax Scout Troop here this evening. If you would like to stand up and make yourselves known. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, there has been great noise from the other side of, people stay on the bill, stay on the substance of the bill. This shouldn't be a hard bill to stay on the substance because there are three ministers, there is the Premier and two ministers, as I look across the way, that the weight of this bill is clearly on their shoulders. One is the Premier himself who, not three months ago, was flitting around this province before he was Premier telling everybody, vote for me and you will get a fair package. I have legislation in my pocket and I am going to give it to you and it is going to be fair.

Then we have the Minister of Health who says no we are not going to get involved in the collective bargaining process. That is not our style. We don't have to do that. No, we won't. Then, on Thursday past, they summon all and sundry to the closed doors and say we must put legislation together because this group of dutiful employees can't be trusted to bargain collectively. We must put our heavy hand on the heads of these workers and push them down.

[8:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what this legislation does, push workers down. That is where I want to start because I come from an area of this province that knows some things about the rights of workers being trampled. I know, in my own home town, of men who were killed by provincial police officers in the 1920's because they wanted a collective agreement.

Mr. Speaker, this government has not learned anything from that. Seventy-five years ago that happened in my home town and every June 11th we mourn that loss in my home town. Without a shot being fired last Friday, people's dreams and wishes were killed. These people who go out and get trained, work hard, are people in our community, are volunteers, they are mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. Some of these people over this way, in their Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, cloaked themselves in a saying that I am here as an ordinary Nova Scotia, we are here as ordinary Nova Scotians. These people up here are ordinary Nova Scotians but that doesn't seem to carry any weight with this government. This government wants, yes desires, these people to be put down, that they be shown an example of how this regime is going to work for the next three, four or five years, however long they want to stay in this dictatorial process.

[Page 825]

You know collective bargaining is just that, it is an amalgam of things and you do it. Now I was fortunate at times in another life, so to speak, to represent workers in this province and, indeed, throughout Atlantic Canada. Some of them fell under provincial jurisdictions and others fell under federal jurisdictions. Now this government could have done a few things when it came to this legislation. They could have done this, which they refer to as the tough decision. Well, I couldn't disagree more because I think it is the easy decision. It is, go away, you handle it, we don't want you, go away.

That is wrong. What they could have done was introduce progressive labour legislation. They could have done something such as the Province of Newfoundland has done, and introduced first collective agreement. What would they get from first collective agreement? Well, they would get an option of being able to sit down and bargain and that the employer, if the employer caused, or if, indeed, the union caused talks to come to a stalemate in the first collective agreement, then they could go to an impartial third party, not appointed by the Minister of Labour or the government in power, but by them. That would have been so forward-thinking. We are months away from a new millennium and wouldn't that have been a breath of fresh air, instead of this black veil falling over us, Mr. Speaker.

Some these folks have come from a unionized background. Some were organized by NSGEU, some were with CUPE, some were with CAW and some of them took collective agreements with them. But what had happened, in typical fashion of either one of these parties here, the Tories or the Liberals, they decided that this was a good idea, to put a province-wide ambulance service and emergency response teams together. What did they do? Did they say, let's do one thing first. Let's look after the workers. Let's make sure everything is in place for the employees. No, some people, with much bravado, got up and said, we got the new ambulance. We didn't give them a raise, we didn't make sure, in the front end, that, first and foremost, when we come with this new province-wide service, that the minimum wage for these workers will be set at this level. No, that would have been too fair-minded that those people were the ones that were looked after.

We struck a deal with Maritime Medical and its compadre in this, Blue Cross, and they were looked after first. I see the Premier pointing his finger at the Liberals and that is true. That is honest to goodness, sign on the dotted line, history. They did the deal, but that, Mr. Premier, doesn't relieve you of your responsibility, because whatever mess you inherited from that group over there had no real rationale to bring this type of 1800 legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: It was a mess that they had inherited from the Buchanan Government.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, it is one big round circle. So what happens to the workers here? Do we go and look after them? No, we look after big business first. So we have 13 months of negotiations, and what happens is, in that term, there is one proposed collective agreement brought forward and it is rejected. It is rejected soundly by the membership, who are the

[Page 826]

ultimate voice in this democracy. They say no, but are they saying no and knowing next week that they will be legislated back to work or a few weeks down the road they will be legislated back to work? No. It is they have sent it back and said, this isn't going to work. So do they get a second chance? No.

For jumping sake, in this country there is even a faint hope clause for first degree murders, but they don't get that second chance. It is rammed down their throat by this government who says, no. We don't want it, we don't have to talk to you, we don't want to talk to you. Why wouldn't this government and, in particular, the Minister of Health, stick to his word and not get involved. That would have been much better than what you have done today. You stood in this House and said, no, we are not getting involved. Then, all of a sudden, in the dark corner meeting last Thursday, you huddled your coven together and you bring in this legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is pretty spooky.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, well it is Halloween. Picture this, if you will. So what do they do? They don't only bother to legislate them back, they put stops in there. They tell them what the rate of retro pay is going to be. You can't go past October 1st. I would dearly love to have someone stand, from the government side of the House, and tell me what that has to do with the safety of Nova Scotians, why these people can't get retro pay. That just baffles me.

How do you look up there and - there are certainly more people around today - rationalize that? Why would you do that? Other than - one can draw the conclusion, that is the only way you can go with this - is the fact that you are taking your cue from the employer which, by virtue of you ponying up some of the money, that you are looking after your friends instead of the workers.

This group is not asking for the sun and the moon. They are just asking for a fair settlement. Now, what is a fair settlement? They are negotiating an agreement when they are not even covered under parts of the Labour Standards Code. That just baffles me. They are not covered under parts of WCB. That baffles me. Why wouldn't you do what the Premier had promised that he had legislation that he would protect these people. Even if we came in with that protection, wouldn't that have been a lot better than hitting these poor souls the way you are doing?

I look over at the benches across the way and I don't see heartless men and women. I have known some of you from when I first came here in March 1998, and I see what I always thought to be caring, compassionate Nova Scotians. But I don't know where this is coming from. On that line I think, Mr. Premier, you know that when people voted for your government back in July, that that is what they thought they were getting.

[Page 827]

I think that Nova Scotians that supported you, supported you because you were going to give them a caring and honest government. I am somewhat dismayed by this because the fact is that neither one seems to be happening. The caring is gone, by the mere fact of what you and your Finance Minister have done in the last week or two, taking the money out of the hands of the poor and the volunteer groups in this province, to what you have done to the disabled, and basically the forthrightness is gone. Clearly you said on July 26th, and you stood up and reiterated it again today in this House, that you would give these people a fair deal; and you had legislation.

One has to think, did you have this legislation in your back pocket, so to speak, on July 26th? Is this what you consider fair? Well, if it is, then there are two John Hamms. Because, while I don't in any way, shape or form, ever espouse the Tory philosophy, I always thought that these things were more sacred to your Party; the primary caregivers in this province, that they deserved better than a wild pack meeting on a Thursday night, and coming out and flinging this in the public and saying, that is it, you go back to work, I don't care.

Yet, you have done it. I guess that says volumes, but what do we do? What you have done with this legislation is effectively told everybody, stop negotiating. There is no will on the part of the employer now to negotiate. First of all, you have given them guidelines to go back to, so why should they negotiate those? They know, as they say in basketball, just hold the ball, the clock will run out, and that is exactly what is happening here. The employer will wait and indeed, the clock will run out.

[8:45 p.m.]

This is not a pick-up game of basketball, Mr. Speaker, this is people's lives. This is about an ambulance attendant, an EMT, who leaves after a 14-hour shift, jumps in his vehicle and takes a critically ill patient from the Cape Breton Regional Hospital to Halifax. Is that a once-in-a-while scenario? No, that is an all-too-often scenario. This person has been entrusted with somebody's loved one to traipse across part of this province and indeed, you know if what we hear is true, if they pick that route going through Antigonish, heaven help us all, because we have tired drivers and a bad route, and that is a dangerous combination.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is that, the red route?

MR. CORBETT: Yes. So what do we do here, Mr. Speaker, do we tell these guys no, no, that is it, that doesn't matter, 14 hours and a four and one-half hour drive and wait and turn around and come back and, by the way, you do not have what the vast majority of Nova Scotians have, you do not have coverage under the Labour Standards Code. Your overtime is calculated differently because we do not value you. We do not value the service; we do not value the $30,000 you may have spent on training; we do not value the fact that you probably had to go in debt, and your family is in debt. You went into a career that you were told is a career that shows advancement and it is a growing career but, by the way, we are not going

[Page 828]

to pay you what you are worth. We are not even going to come close to it and we are going to put other restrictions on you.

What happens, Mr. Speaker? Much has been said about these valuable members of the Nova Scotia workforce and what they are going to do. I believe some will leave. Some will leave this province; some will leave the profession and go elsewhere. Maybe the Minister of Economic Development could put a good word in for them and Scotiabank will hire them. Maybe that is it; maybe that is where they are going to go. We don't know.

AN HON. MEMBER: They just have to think outside the box.

MR. CORBETT: Yes. Well yes, and this is a great one. We have a large problem on our hands in this province, Mr. Speaker, and it is not because these men and women had the unmitigated gall to try to bargain collectively. We have this problem because this group decided that it was in their own interests to hit a flea with a maul, that they wanted to show Nova Scotians how tough they are. Do you think we can kick volunteers? Do you think we can give the disabled a hard time? You watch what we do with EMTs. You just watch us. Watch us roll, and that is exactly what they are doing. They are trying to roll over these people.

At what point do these intelligent people become reflective about this and realize what these men and women do for the economy of Nova Scotia? Are these people going to go and make the glorious sum of $12 an hour and ship $6.00 of those dollars down to the Grand Cayman Islands? I don't think so. I think - do you know, I am silly like that, Mr. Speaker - they are going to spend it here in Nova Scotia. They are going to spend it, and something that would gladden the heart of the Premier I am sure, at Sobey's stores and at Lawtons, those Sobey-mega stores.

AN HON. MEMBER: At Kavanagh's.

MR. CORBETT: The Minister of Health is saying at Kavanagh's, but I think if this government has its way with competition laws, the Kavanaghs would be out of business before these folks get a decent raise. So we don't have to worry about Kavanagh's for too long with this group around, and with their grocery connections.

Why doesn't the government think in those terms? Why wouldn't they think outside the grocery box? Why wouldn't we see that every cent these people make is spent in Nova Scotia?

I had the pleasure about two weekends ago to spend about an hour and one-half with five EMTs in the Town of New Waterford. Now these guys - they are all male - were talking about their job and basically said to me, when asked why did you reject the offer that was put

[Page 829]

on the table, their answer was fairly simple. There was not enough money for me to stay in this business. I could not afford to feed my family and do this job full time.

I know there are many speakers who have said today that these people work the 60 or 70 hours a week because they need those hours to get enough income, but nowhere in the legislation proposed do they talk about that, do they say that that has to be in there, that they have to make, what is taken for granted by most Nova Scotians, a 40 hour week. Why wouldn't they say look, first of all, that is the line we have to draw.

The line they draw is saying what measly dollars you will make in retro pay, when we legislate you back, will only be retroactive to October 1, 1999. Why wouldn't they be visionaries and say, look, here is a dollar amount we are going to put in that you, Mr. Arbitrator, can't go below. Why can't we do things differently? But no, they went and they put everything in there that loaded one side of the table. (Interruptions) It is about money, that's right. My friends here say it is about money and that is what it is. It is about money for friends of this government, it is not about money for these people to feed their families.

We sit here every day and talk about good jobs in Nova Scotia; I think that these are good jobs for Nova Scotians. Well, these are great jobs for Nova Scotians but lousy, stinking wages. How can one comb one's hair in the morning and realize what they are paying these people and saying that is what it is?

The Minister of Health may justify it by what he said earlier today, there is no money left. How can you say there is no money left when the Minister of Economic Development was flitting around with the executives of Scotiabank? He was gaga with these guys. If, indeed, they had to play music, I am sure the minister would have danced. (Interruption) I am on the point, Mr. Speaker. I am talking about money that the Minister of Health says doesn't exist. Well, it does exist but it just doesn't exist for workers.

Why must workers always be the last ones figured in the equation? The previous speaker from the Liberal Party made much bravado about negotiating collective agreements without a strike. Well, that is half the story there, Mr. Speaker, because what they did was this is the same lot who rolled wages back. So before they get tennis elbow from patting themselves on the back, I think they should look at that. (Interruption)

I hear the member for Cape Breton Nova saying that is what happened to Roy Romanow in Saskatchewan. I guess we learned our lesson there because we had to invite Liberals in with us, so we learned our lesson there. Every family has their dirty secrets, Mr. Speaker, and that's ours, I guess.

The Premier's inference during the election was that he would help these workers get a fair deal and he had the legislation. Clearly you said that, Mr. Premier. Why today are we here saying there is no money, there is no fair deal? You know that this legislation is not a fair

[Page 830]

deal. I think that is safe to say. So where are we with this? Are we at the point of the old saying of we didn't know how bad things were. that's why we can't give you the money?

There were 243 reasons that should tell Nova Scotians that there are problems here, because if this is the first broken promise, what is coming behind it? Are there 243 dominoes set up to fall? I hope not. I hope that this dark day is in isolation, I really do. I hope that they are going to be more cognizant of their responsibilities towards Nova Scotians, especially the working people of Nova Scotia because, I will tell you that with legislation like this and moves like last week, there are going to be fewer and fewer working Nova Scotians. That scares me, as it should scare the government, because fewer Nova Scotians working means fewer dollars coming in to the coffers, simple as that.

I think we all run for office at some point in the hope of providing Nova Scotians with the basics. One of those basic things is good employment, employment that would give them the spending power to look after their families.

AN HON. MEMBER: Like Scotiabank.

MR. CORBETT: Like Scotiabank. (Laughter) Here is the Premier and the Scotiabank jabs. That is great employment. We will give money to a billion dollar company, but we won't give money to workers. Okay, I understand it now. That's the box we live in. Well, well. We want to give all kinds of money to the Bank of Nova Scotia.

What do we do, Mr. Speaker, when these trained people leave this province? They won't all leave the province because some people, like most Nova Scotians, love this place and want to stay here. So what they will do, they will work 60 hours as an EMT and then probably go out and find a second job. Heaven forbid, the amount of sleep they will get then.

What is this legislation going to do for us? Why wouldn't the Minister of Labour get down and bang some heads on this, get both parties together, and let's do some real brass tacks negotiations? Why would you do this? Why won't the Minister of Labour stand up now and say, look, I am going to withdraw this bill, it is not fair for the EMTs and it is not fair for Nova Scotians. Let's go and bang out a deal because that is what collective bargaining is all about. Collective bargaining is about two sides, with give and take, trying to come up with a deal that both parties can live with and both parties can prosper with. This is not what is going on here. What is going on here is the subversion of collective bargaining and telling one side, here is what we are prepared to do for you, give you special treatment, give you rules from within the Legislature of this province that we can look after so you don't have to spend any money in giving this group absolutely nothing.

[Page 831]

[9:00 p.m.]

Why must they do this? This is the pattern of this government since it started introducing legislation, to do the one-two. They introduce this bill, then part two of this bill is that the same person who had their hands in drafting the bill is the same person who has the ability to appoint the "third party". What do we do there? Why wouldn't it say stuff like, we will allow the two parties to select the independent arbitrator? No. It makes way too much sense.

They could find among themselves a third party that they could both agree with. But no, this government has to do the one-two on them. We are going to curtail, cut off, eliminate collective bargaining, but if that is not insult enough, what we are going to do is we are going to tell you, without being asked, who that "independent third party" is. That is extremely Draconian. (Interruptions) Yes, my friend says it may be someone friendly to the government. You know what, I would say that but I think this government would have a hard time finding anybody friendly to them at this point.

Why would the things that have to go to arbitration have to be agreed upon by both parties? Why would they bring that in? Why wouldn't they say, because if the owner or, indeed, the union didn't want something onerous on the table, they would just not agree to it. It is not really any kind of arbitrator or mediator in there, it becomes a real dog's breakfast. Why wouldn't they say, what either party can't resolve and they want to put that on the table, why wouldn't they say that? No. We want to keep the heavy hand on this.

I guess that comes to a large point about where this government is. This government seems to tell people, and they said it in their Throne Speech, that they don't want to be intrusive. If you can recall that heady day, they don't want to be intrusive, but they will be darn well intrusive when it comes to the workers of this province. They will be intrusive in their lives, they will trample their rights. But no, don't trample the rights of Scotiabank. That is their definition of being intrusive.

Two hundred and forty-three broken promises. Why would they say things like, make Nova Scotia a good place to do business. The member for Halifax Atlantic brought this up today. They say a good place to do business, but certainly don't say a good place to work. Why can't we have both? Why can't we say, it is important that workers are a part of economic renewal in this province? They take the there-there-now-little-child attitude when it comes to workers. Granddad knows best. Yet, when workers try to advance just the most common things as protection under the Trade Union Act, this government says no. What message is this government sending out to workers? It is clear.

You know in the not so distant future, other employees of this government are coming up for collective bargaining. Now it would be interesting. I have cited the Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour, the Premier, but a real quiet voice in all this, is the Minister of Human

[Page 832]

Resources. What is his idea for advancing the cause of workers' rights with the collective bargaining system for the civil servants in this province?

AN HON. MEMBER: It depends on what the backroom people tell him.

MR. CORBETT: That's right. Will they be 13 months trying to hammer out a collective agreement only to have a group go over to One Government Place and send down a piece of legislation . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: In the back door.

MR. CORBETT: . . . in the back door and say, this is what you take, no more, no less - usually it is a lot less - and this is what you are taking. One would hope this is not a precursor to wage freezes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, they would be just like the Liberals, wouldn't they?

MR. CORBETT: Oh, yes. Well, we often say, with Liberal, Tory, same old story.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that the old 52?

MR. CORBETT: Yes. It is interesting. Bill numbers are fascinating things because this is Bill No. 9 and it sent shivers down my back because the last time we got up was with legislation that took away rights of working people in Nova Scotia, Bill No. 90.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is it a coincidence? I don't think so.

MR. CORBETT: I don't think so.

AN HON. MEMBER: Fun with numbers.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, fun with numbers. I wonder where they come up with these things? Why wouldn't the Minister of Human Resources say no? One assumes, he is part of the Executive Council, that he would sit down . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: But he is not in the inner circle.

MR. CORBETT: Well, circle, coven, I don't know. (Interruption) Well, he gets the pay. More importantly, he gets the pay. More than we can say about ladies and gentlemen up here. They don't get the salary. It is quick when we don't want to pay the workers of this province. This group can crack a whip and they are at it, but no, when it comes to their own, there must be a whole shortage of mirrors over there, Mr. Speaker, because they certainly don't look from whence they came.

[Page 833]

AN HON. MEMBER: Short memories, too. Selective amnesia.

MR. CORBETT: Selective. I mean, we have two members in that Executive Council who were members of the last John and his Merry Men, spent like sailors who had too much fun ashore, and then wilful participants in the slash and burn of Donnie Cameron, the same gentleman that they followed blindly who had told people of Nova Scotia that it was the workers' fault that there was an explosion at Westray, at the very inquiry. That is the type of mentality, Mr. Speaker. I know there is a member over there saying, stay on the topic, but this is the topic because this is the vision they have. They have a vision of worker bad, employer good. Why wouldn't this group of men and women go and say, look it is important that this contract be arrived at in a fair and equitable manner.

To start with, we are not dealing with a piece of enlightened legislation in the first part when we start talking about the Trade Union Act in this province. There are many holes there, but even that piece of legislation was thrown out. So where does that leave these people who want to serve Nova Scotians? That is what they are, they are servants of this province. They are people who want to go out and do a job and get paid. They want to - silly as it may seem - go out and, as most human beings, be able to bargain for the value of their work. But that has been usurped from them. It has been taken away and denied by a government that pushed its way into office by saying one thing and, when getting there, doing another. I look at them and say, why would they want to do this job?

AN HON. MEMBER: Because they care about Nova Scotians.

MR. CORBETT: That's right, they care a heck of a lot more about Nova Scotians than this lot does. This group here will not stand up. Look at the backbenches, part of the platform was that backbenchers would get up and have a say. (Interruption) Well, I look forward to the hours ahead when they get up and have their say.

AN HON. MEMBER: Will it be in this life?

MR. CORBETT: No. Well, I don't think that as the hour draws late that anybody should nap off because I am sure they will miss it. (Interruptions) You are having so much fun. Well, it is funny, you know, I hear my friends across the way talking about time because it is an important aspect here, the timing of this legislation. Why wouldn't they wait this out?

AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe they should withdraw it.

MR. CORBETT: Well, that is what we have asked the Minister of Labour to do, or the Minister of Health, in his wisdom, to withdraw this and let them get back to collective bargaining. What is so horrendous about allowing Nova Scotian workers to arrive at their own destiny? It is not to say that the overriding concern with this legislation is public safety, is a crock, you know that. You know that is not factual. This is legislation to restrict workers'

[Page 834]

rights, it is plain and simple. (Interruptions) I think they are, I think they would like to have their members speak about this.

AN HON. MEMBER: The member for the Eastern Shore used to defend and fight about the municipalities.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, well you know, it does funny things to your bones over there. What is on the table? There are workers, as we speak, who are walking picket lines in Cape Breton who are there for various reasons, not the least of which is that they have the right to strike but they are there because governments such as this have downloaded to municipalities.

So what are they going to do? At what point are their collective rights going to be taken away when someone says well, this is happening so we cannot allow those children to have those rights any more. That is how they are treated, like little children - you can't have these rights any more because this group of free thinkers, in their estimation, you have gone too far with it because you have honestly challenged what we are all about, you are going to expose us for what we are. That scares them. I think that goes to the heart of the problem they have with the EMTs, that they realize that if Nova Scotians were to go without this service, if indeed it came to the worst-case scenario and they had to take work action, that Nova Scotians would blame them. They would not blame the EMT workers, they would blame them for not dealing with them in a fair and honest manner.

Has there been any talk with the employer, to sit down and tell these people that this is, indeed, a necessity, that they have to reach an agreement? No, they don't do that. They go and say look folks, you don't think you can get an agreement? Well, I will tell you what we are going to do for you, we are not going to make you negotiate, don't worry your pretty little head. We are going to take these people who make this great sum of $12, $10, $8.00 and some $6.50 an hour and we are going to legislate them back and we are going to build parameters around it so you don't have to worry about it. Not only that, we are going to tell you how long the collective agreement is going to be. It is going to be for three years. Why? What do these things have to with public safety? Why would one of the government members not get up and talk about that? What impact does that have to do with public safety?

[9:15 p.m.]

Not to get away from the fact that the bill in and of itself should never have been introduced, but when you start seeing things in this bill, Mr. Speaker, you wonder what these various things are doing in here because time after time the government, when introducing this and talking about it, has said it is to do with public safety, that they would take the proverbial bull by the horns and do it when it comes to matters of public safety. What does that have to do with it? Public safety to my mind, Mr. Speaker, is what I talked about before, the EMT employee having to get a patient from the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital,

[Page 835]

after working 14 hours, and having to transport that patient here to Halifax, five hours, and over treacherous roads, all hours of the night.

Mr. Speaker, as many people have said before me, we have all had members of our families having to avail themselves of this service and the one thing we come back with time after time is glowing remarks about the professionalism of this service. I have had occasion to have our paths cross on at least five or six occasions. Not once have I ever heard one of them say, man, I am wiped, I just did 15 hours and whatever. It is just like head down, do the job, secure the patient, get them transported, get them the medical attention they need. But what do they get for that type of hard work and diligence? They get a that-was-yesterday type of attitude from the government. They get an attitude from the government that says not only are you not going to get what you deserve, but we are going to be really restrictive in what you get at all. We are not going to be open and fair with you. What we are going to do is we are going to load the deck in favour of the employer.

No thought to the fact, like or dislike what was going on in negotiations, that it was inching its way at some point to a resolve. No, these folks had their finger on the trigger and it got itchy. They said we have to do something, we have to do something real quick. We cannot allow these people, these grown women and men, to partially decide their own fate in the workplace. We have to go and look after our friends in this sector, which are large companies like Blue Cross, who are doing very well, thank you.

It is not so much one group of employees being trod upon here, Mr. Speaker, it is what we have to do, as workers told me downstairs today, if we do not stop this now, who is next? That is the problem here. They are not only being dumped on by this government, but what they are becoming now is the front line of defence for every other union in this province that commences collective bargaining, because this government has clearly said to employers, if you are having problems with your workers, come see us, we will fix it.

AN HON. MEMBER: I am surprised the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would tolerate that.

MR. CORBETT: It is interesting who tolerates what when they cross to that side of the floor. Do they really understand what they are doing here? What is going on here? They have started a downward spiral and it is a race to the bottom. What they have said is, the heck with keeping up with the Joneses, we will drag them down with us. That is their attitude here. We will drag them down. It was interesting - you hear this gaggle over here laughing - what was telling, was the day the election writ was issued, what did you see running around the Centennial office tower in Halifax but young men and women running around with Team Harris jackets on. It was prophetic.

[Page 836]

That is exactly where they are coming from. It is the early stages of Harrisitis. (Interruptions) You could, if you catch it early enough. But do you know what it is, this disease takes money out of the hands of workers in the province, and what it does, it transplants that money in the pockets of the wealthy. They don't have any other worry. We have seen it. We have seen their friends bellying up to the bar with the buddy from Scotiabank, how much boys, how much? Scotiabank gets to tell everybody in this province, we are creating jobs, but does this minister say, wait a second, how many jobs have been lost by tellers in this province? Let me just get this right, you are laying people off, we are paying to have them retrained, and that is job creation. (Interruptions)

This minister's largesse is amazing. We have some options here. We can get this government, and the government can certainly do this, to withdraw this legislation. It would be the right, decent and honourable thing to do. What it would do, it would signal what the government has said all along they were going to do. They were going to be fair and open. But they have been neither.

They did this legislation behind closed doors, rammed it in, told House Leaders at the last moment the hours we would be operating from today, with no regard for the tradition of this House. It was just go do it. Why? To get at some of the hardest working people in this province that are truly among the most grossly and unfairly, underpaid group in this province. Why would they do that? Except that they bought into the Harris agenda. Just sweep this province clean, and then we will go and have nobody. I hear an echo from the Lakes, and I think he is probably better off if he was under the lakes. I hear him hollering, what about Glen Clarke? (Interruptions) Listen to him. He must have gone out at lunchtime and gotten encouragement. (Laughter) He can crush me all right.

Mr. Speaker, this government has not treated these workers fairly. I say that they do have an option today. They have an option to go and take this legislation back from whence it came, to go and tell the employer to bargain in good faith, that we are not as a government going to go and load the debt for you. We want you to sit down and bargain. We have seen instances from one end of this country to the other of where eleventh hour negotiations have come to a settlement that was acceptable to both parties. As I said earlier, this group for some reason, got an itchy trigger finger and had to shoot at the hip.

AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe they should have a course in labour law.

MR. CORBETT: That could be it. So, why can't they do that? I guess that is a very simple question and it is the germ, I guess, of what we are trying to get here, why can't you do that? It would impact exactly on what you say about what type of government you are going to run. You have heard from this House that people want you to be open. You said you wanted to be open, so why can't you do that? Would anybody think less of you?

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

[Page 837]

MR. CORBETT: I think not. (Interruptions) So, Mr. Speaker, time is growing short and what I want to say in closing is that people wanted more from this government. Indeed they expected more, as I said. So why wouldn't they give the people what they ran on? Nova Scotians wanted what they said they were going to give them, this openness, but they haven't.

They told Nova Scotians in Yarmouth on July 26th, vote for us and EMT employees will get a fair agreement because look, we've got it. (Interruption) The Minister of Agriculture says they are going to get it. Well, I tend to agree with the minister. They are getting it. I mean, holy jumping, what is so subversive about collective bargaining with this group? Why won't you allow the people who work in that business to bargain collectively, help define their destiny, shape the workplace, be a partner in the workplace, give them the rights that most workers in this province enjoy, be fair-minded, help Nova Scotians move forward, pay them a wage, treat them with respect and not this garbage you put forward. Mr. Speaker, thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to, for a few moments this evening speak in support of the paramedics, as my constituents would want me to do. I can't say that it is a pleasure, because any time you speak on a piece of legislation so hateful as this one, it certainly is not a pleasure.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 9, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province, is a bad bill. This bill deserves to be debated thoroughly and I will do my best to do that. We need to look at this bill very closely because it deals with an important area of the health care system. There is nowhere it is of more importance than my riding of Victoria. The principle of Bill No. 9 shows a lack of faith in our paramedics. It shows that this Tory Government does not have faith in the ability of paramedics to negotiate a fair equitable deal for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, this bill speaks to the respect or lack thereof this Tory Government has for those people on the front line of emergency health care. That's a shame. I think essentially Bill No. 9 is ignorant of the important position paramedics hold. To understand how important our paramedics are today, we must look at the level of service Nova Scotia had in the past. The area I am most familiar with of course is in the riding of Victoria.

[9:30 p.m.]

Before 1993, many of the residents of Victoria had grave concerns about emergency health care in that area. As a backbencher prior to 1993 I was told loud and clear by my constituents that they were not happy with the health care system. In my area we had two old antiquated hospitals. After the previous government came to power in 1993 the former Minister of Health realized that those two facilities needed to be replaced. Since 1953 the

[Page 838]

Buchanan Memorial Hospital in Neil's Harbour served the people of northern Cape Breton well. However, everyone realized the need to replace this out-of-date and unsafe wooden structure.

Mr. Speaker, this building probably would not even meet minimum standards of that day, let alone today, but the former government proceeded on its commitment to build a new health care facility in Neil's Harbour in partnership with the community and the Eastern Regional Health Board. As the MLA for the area, I was also very proud of the new Victoria County Memorial Hospital in Baddeck. This new 12-bed facility was opened in 1995, to include such agencies as home care, public health and palliative care and it is considered a model for community-based health care. One of the unique programs based at this facility is the Native Outreach Program, staffed since mid-1993 to better service the members of the Mi'kmaq community. Also St. Ann's Medical Centre received assistance to help with the transition between the end of federal funding under the New Horizon Program and the time when the centre would become self-sufficient.

Mr. Speaker, the former provincial government offered support that ensured an adequate level of health care was provided to the residents of my riding of Victoria. Providing an adequate level of service is instrumental in the bill we are debating this evening. Bill No. 9 as it is written assumes that paramedics would not provide an adequate level of service to Nova Scotians in the event of a strike. That is a long way from the truth. I know a number of paramedics. I know that they would show compassion and they would not leave any Nova Scotian to die on the roadside or to die on the sickbed.

Mr. Speaker, I must say that our paramedics are much better equipped and are better trained to provide a level of service far superior to that available prior to 1993 whether they strike or not. Before 1993 in Victoria County it may be safe to say that ambulance service was not very adequate even by the standards set by the former Tory Government. However, thanks to the work of a previous Liberal Minister of Health, our ambulance service is the envy of much of Canada. (Applause)

Our paramedics are now better trained and better equipped. Their ambulances now have more vital life-saving equipment in order to deal with almost every emergency situation. Most of our ambulances now have defibrillators and professionals trained to use them. In a situation where seconds count, these machines and the paramedics are saving lives. Our ambulance service is now monitored and regulated to ensure a consistent level of service no matter where you are in Nova Scotia, whether you are in Victoria, Yarmouth, Halifax or the Valley.

Mr. Speaker, this is important because our paramedics are forced to deal with some very difficult situations. Paramedics face medical emergencies that you and I cannot imagine and they face these emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our paramedics must respond to car accidents in the middle of the night. They deal with house fires on the weekends. This is not an easy or desirable job. My riding of Victoria is a vast constituency.

[Page 839]

In order to provide adequate coverage, we have ambulances stationed in various locations. This ensures that they can respond to an emergency within a reasonable response time. We have two ambulance bases north of Smokey, one in Ingonish and one in Cape North. These two modern facilities are more than just a parking garage for ambulances, they also house paramedics.

Mr. Speaker, I know that my constituents are very pleased with the level of service that they receive. God forbid anyone ever has to take advantage of that service, but people who do need the service have nothing but praise for our paramedics. In fact, my constituents tell me that paramedics are providing a level of service that far exceeds our expectations.

Mr. Speaker, working conditions for our paramedics have improved tremendously from just a few short years ago, and that is because the previous government had faith in the bargaining process. The employer, EMC, and the paramedics have been able to reach deals that significantly reduced the hours worked for over 75 per cent of paramedics in our province. EMC is also hiring more paramedics, and this will reduce the number of hours they are on call even more. With better working conditions, paramedics say they can provide a better service.

Now we are faced with this situation that may jeopardize that service. I don't think the situation is being made any better with the introduction of Bill No. 9. Bill No. 9, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province, is the first major piece of legislation introduced by this Tory Government. Since this is the first major piece of legislation, people are asking the question, is this bill an indication of the direction in which this government is headed? Is Bill No. 9 a sign of how this government is going to treat all its employees?

Mr. Speaker, this province has sensitive public sector contract negotiations on the horizon. This bill should ring alarm bells for the entire Public Service. Is Bill No. 9 how this government wants to be remembered? This government was elected on a platform called "Strong leadership . . . . a clear course". Does Bill No. 9 demonstrate strong leadership? I would argue that Bill No. 9 demonstrates a lack of leadership. This is the type of legislation we would expect from a government that has lost control. Instead of taking the time to respect delicate negotiations, this government has laid down the law.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is another example of how this Tory Government is trying to imitate their Tory cousins in Ontario. Mike Harris is the hero of the Premier of Nova Scotia. It was Mike Harris who pushed through back-to-work legislation for teachers in Ontario in 1998. Now the Harris-Hamm plan has Nova Scotia doing the very same thing. Bill No. 9, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province, raises many concerns. This bill also comes as a surprise to many. It certainly came as a surprise to the paramedics.

[Page 840]

Mr. Speaker, just last week, the Minister of Health said he had a plan in case of a strike. Now, is Bill No. 9 the plan that the minister is talking about? It can't be, because just last week the Minister of Health said that government must stay out of negotiations. The Minister of Health said the negotiations were between the employer and the employees. Also last week, the government said it would not get involved in the process. The minister also said he wanted both sides to continue to negotiate. Today, the Tory Government is smack dab in the middle of negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 9 strips paramedics of their bargaining rights before they have a chance to use them. Bill No. 9 has thrown a wrench in the works. The government has interfered in the bargaining process. This government has basically said it does not have faith in the bargaining process. Bill No. 9 could cripple the bargaining process. The Tories have handed the employer, EMC, an excuse to hold back during the negotiations. The employer, EMC, can hide behind Bill No. 9 while the paramedics have their hands tied. Bill No. 9 gives an advantage to the employer over the employees and upsets the bounds of power in the negotiations. This bill lacks fairness for the paramedics. This bill holds a sword over the heads of the paramedics. It says the government does not trust the paramedics to do what is right.

Mr. Speaker, with their heads in a guillotine, the paramedics are expected to continue to provide the same high level of service the people of Victoria County have come to expect. Is this fair? True fairness in sensitive negotiations is difficult to achieve, but it takes skill and willingness to compromise.

The former Liberal Government knows how difficult it is to negotiate these types of agreements. The former Liberal Government faced a difficult task of dealing with strikes in 41 nursing homes across our province. In these negotiations, the Liberals were not the employer, just like the current government is not in this situation; however, unlike the current Tory Government, the Liberal Government was committed to a process that was fair. We did not introduce back-to-work legislation. We could have, but we didn't. We felt that the bargaining process deserved a fair chance.

Just a few short months ago, Nova Scotia was faced with strikes in 41 nursing homes across the province. Nurses working in these homes wanted fairness. When this Minister of Health was in Opposition, he demanded that the former Liberal Government get involved. The present Minister of Health demanded that nurses be treated fairly. So what does the Minister of Health say today? Mr. Speaker, to find out what he said, we need only look at Bill No. 9, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province. This bill is unfair to all sides.

The paramedics have been negotiating in good faith over the past year. Nobody wants to see the paramedics go on strike; the employer doesn't want a strike, the people of Nova Scotia don't want a strike, the paramedics certainly don't want a strike and the people of my riding certainly do not want the strike.

[Page 841]

[9:45 p.m.]

The paramedics provide a service the entire province can be proud of. The emergency medical care in Nova Scotia is first-rate. Our paramedics have an excellent record of providing a service. They have told me that they want to continue to provide a service that we can all be proud of. Our paramedics are health care professionals who are committed to provide top quality emergency services. Our paramedics are on call and on duty during situations most of us cannot even imagine and during the sensitive negotiations the paramedics said they will remain committed to provide service to all Nova Scotians. The paramedics respect the bargaining process and they respect Nova Scotians. They said they would continue to provide service on a rotating basis in the event of a strike. The paramedics understand the vital role they play in our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, with Bill No. 9 it appears doubtful that this government understands the vital role played by our paramedics. It denies paramedics the freedom to negotiate and Bill No. 9 binds their hands and effectively gags them, much like this government tried to gag debate on this bill earlier today. When this bill was introduced last Friday, the government also sent out a press release to the media. The government news release that came out said that Bill No. 9 was being introduced as a last resort.

Mr. Speaker, how could this be a last resort when negotiations were still ongoing? The bargaining process still had some ground to cover. A compromise could have been reached this week. Bill No. 9 is a last resort because it effectively squashed the will of employers and employees to continue to negotiate. The truth is this bill is the last resort of a government that has no plan, which raises the question, why was this bill introduced? Was this bill to ensure public safety? If so, then the government admits that it does not trust the paramedics to do their jobs because the paramedics were bargaining in good faith and they said they would continue to provide services on a rotating basis but this Tory Government said, sorry, we do not trust you.

Mr. Speaker, what impact does the government expect this bill to have on negotiations? Collective bargaining is a fragile process. It requires the willingness of all sides to engage in a give and take. Last week the Premier himself admitted the government has no place in these negotiations. The government should not interfere. We thought the Premier was a man of his word. He campaigned on his image as an honest country doctor, but what are we to believe when this sort of thing happens? Who is going to win by introducing this legislation? For the employer this bill is an easy out. They no longer have to execute the contingency plan that the Minister of Health assured us was in place but what will binding arbitration mean for the employer? We will have to wait and see that, Mr. Speaker.

For the paramedics this legislation is a lose-lose scenario. Thanks to the Tory Government the paramedics have lost the one thing they had left to bargain with - their right to strike. The ability to strike is the traditional right of employees who feel that they have not

[Page 842]

been treated fairly, and the paramedics were ready to make sure this right was not abused. They gave their word that they would continue to provide a level of service. The paramedics understood how essential the service they provide is. They worked out a deal with their employer that would ensure a level of public safety.

Mr. Speaker, nobody knows the level of service needed in Nova Scotia better than the paramedics themselves. They agreed that if negotiations failed, they would not all go out on strike at once, but the Tory Government did not trust them to do so. The government did not take the paramedics at their word, and the government did not trust that EMC had a deal with its employees to continue to provide service during a strike.

These negotiations have been going on for some time. This government could have stepped in weeks ago to determine how the negotiations were going. They could have dealt with the situation in a better way than ramming back-to-work legislation down the throats of our paramedics. Instead, we have Bill No. 9, introduced with a week left in the negotiations. This came just one day after the government refused to get involved.

The Liberal caucus is very disappointed in this legislation. This bill is something we would expect from Mike Harris in Ontario, but we believe our government needs to respect its workers. Our paramedics deserve better, EMC deserves better, the people of Victoria deserve better. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians do not deserve this type of top-down approach to the collective bargaining process. Nova Scotians did not vote for this. This is not what the Progressive Conservatives fought the election on. This is not the type of legislation we should be getting from a new government with new ideas.

On Monday, July 26, 1999, John Hamm said in a speech at the Yarmouth hospital, ". . . we have committed to a clinical and financial audit of the government's contract with Emergency Health Care.". He also said, "We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives.". He also said, "My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standard laws of this province - and we will proceed with that legislation if elected as a government tomorrow.". This is what Premier Hamm said on July 26, 1999. Where is the commitment? Is this the legislation they promised?

The Premier made a commitment to the paramedics of this province the day before the election. They were desperate for a majority government, so they promised everything to everybody. Now, in government, we see the Tories for who they are. They don't believe in collective bargaining. They are truly the Harris-Hamm Government. Look out if you belong to a public sector union in this province. If you don't negotiate the way the government likes, they will bring in legislation, the big-stick approach to contract negotiations.

[Page 843]

Mr. Speaker, during the strike in 41 nursing homes across this province, our government did not use the big-stick approach. We did not control the negotiation process, and we did not interfere with the collective bargaining process. The question this government should ask itself is, what endangers the public safety more, underpaid, overworked health care providers or a strike?

Nobody wants to see a strike, but the government was not honest with the paramedics with what they said in the dying days of Election '99. So, Mr. Speaker, this is what we are faced with today. This bill goes completely against the pledge of the Premier to the paramedics, the people in the front line of medicine, much like the front-line volunteers of charities; the same volunteers who the Premier praised so highly in his election platform, who had their funding ripped away from them as the first act of this government. Now the first substantive piece of legislation of this government is this Draconian back-to-work law.

Mr. Speaker, we have a government that has completely lost any semblance of morality with the introduction of this bill. Mr. Premier, where is the government that you promised in July? Where is the strong leadership? This bill is not strong leadership. It represents the iron-fist approach to leadership. That is not strength, that is weakness. This is a serious situation that requires cool heads. Unfortunately the government has inflamed the situation and has not given collective bargaining a chance.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would hope that this government would see the chaos that they have created by the introduction of Bill No. 9 and maybe reconsider continuing on and put some trust in our paramedics. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be able to rise on Bill No. 9 to say a few words, as my honourable colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, would say with regard to this bill and its impact, I think, on the Province of Nova Scotia generally and on the health care system and working conditions for paramedics in this province.

I think it is important to remember, Mr. Speaker, that what we are talking about here is a piece of legislation - it is funny but this is the first piece of legislation of any real substance. We had Bill No. 2, that kind of quickly came through the House, but this is the first bill of substance that this government is debating and trying to pass. Having read through the bill, I think it is indicative of what we can expect from this government over the next four years or five years. I don't mean that just in one particular way, I mean it in many ways. I mean it in means of how they are going to deal with labour relations with civil servants. I mean it with regard to their policies with regard to economic issues. I mean it with regard to how they are going to treat health care issues. I am going to hopefully deal with all those in time as I go through.

[Page 844]

I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, to recognize that what this bill is, inherently, is an affront to everything Nova Scotians have believed in since Confederation and before. I find it quite ironic actually that in this House, that was the first responsible government in the British Commonwealth outside of England, we are now having imposed on us both closure with regard to the bill and the silencing of debate, but also on top of that, we have a situation where democratic rights, the right to collective bargaining, the right to a free market negotiation between workers and an employer, is being cut short and eliminated by a government that in many ways, particularly in their Throne Speech, stated that they would be a government that would get out of the way of people and allow them to do what it took to ensure that business and the people of this province could move ahead. I find it ironic that the first piece of major legislation they bring forward does not get out of the way but instead puts themselves forward as a roadblock to free and fair collective bargaining.

I want to talk a bit at first though, Mr. Speaker, with regard to paramedics and put on record a little bit of the history as I know it. I am not a paramedic. I have never worked in the health care field so if there are some mistakes with regard to my understanding of the history, I apologize up front.

I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, to recognize where we have come from in order to understand where we should be going and where we will be going over the next few years and maybe, if we take this diversion in the road, over the next few decades as to where we will be going with regard to health care.

[10:00 p.m.]

For years in this province, Mr. Speaker, first response medical treatment was dealt with primarily through two sources. One was volunteer firefighters, the ones we see throughout this province, we see them day in and day out being on call, ready to respond when necessary, both in small towns, villages and in rural parts of Nova Scotia, so that they are able to respond when necessary to ensure that the people of Nova Scotia can be safe. For years they were what we had in this province to address some of those issues with regard to someone who might have a heart attack, or someone who was in a car accident, or any other various forms of injuries or accidents that can result in the need for emergency medical care.

Before someone gets to a hospital, before someone sees a doctor, or a nurse, the first person they would see for a long time in this province, Mr. Speaker, was a volunteer firefighter, the person who would be there first of all so they could ensure that the person was going to receive some form of treatment and get transported to the hospital. I think it is funny because in many ways up until recently, at least until the Liberals tried to move things forward - and I will get to that in a bit - what we had in this province was nothing more than glorified transport vehicles.

[Page 845]

In some cases the paramedics only needed a chauffeur's license and were put in situations where basically they had to just go, stabilize, put someone in a vehicle and get them to the hospital as soon as possible. That should be in many cases the primary goal with regard to first response medicine because what they are trying to do is stabilize, get the person to a hospital where someone with the skills can address the problem and ensure that it is addressed properly. As I will talk about a little later, there are a lot of cost-savings involved in having someone who is better skilled, someone who is an emergency medical technician primarily, who has the skills not only to stabilize but to stabilize properly, and in a way that we can ensure that that person is not only going to get to the hospital safely, but in a way that they are going to be brought forward and not have to spend as much time in hospital and not need as much doctor care. That is one of the cost-savings involved with this and, as I say, I will get to that a little bit later as well, but that is a point I think that needs to particularly be noted.

The other thing that we had in this province for many years was the use of ambulance services operated by funeral homes and it is funny because outside of Nova Scotia most people sort of laughed at that particular idea. I must say that as a Nova Scotian who had spent some time in another part of Canada and other parts of the world, I am glad now to see that we have taken ambulatory services out of the hands of funeral homes and at least organized them in a way that they are being dealt with by people who are primarily, as you might say, their mission statement is meant to deal with the stabilization treatment and protection of life and moving them back to a hospital where they can be dealt with.

As I say, through the history we had volunteer fire departments. We had regular fire departments in some of the cities who also did this. We had funeral homes that were operating ambulances but there was never any real cohesive policy or standards in place. I think that is one of the key problems we had in this province, Mr. Speaker, was that it was not given its due regard, its due respect. It was not seen as having the necessary minimum standards to ensure that we were going to provide proper first response care, not only as a means of protecting people which, of course, is its primary motive but also as a means of cutting costs that later on are going to increase if someone comes to a hospital and they do not have the proper care in those early crucial first minutes, or moments, or even an hour, until they get to a hospital.

What we had, Mr. Speaker, in the early 1990's with Dr. Mike Murphy, I believe his name was, was a change. We had a change in which he was going to come in and fix some of the problems with our first response system. He was going to stabilize it, to use a medical term. He was going to harmonize and to some extent rationalize so that what we had was minimum standards. We had better trained people who we can now call paramedics, people who are EMTs, emergency medical technicians, and ensured that they had a minimal level of training to do the job properly. They were not just glorified transport people.

[Page 846]

These paramedics, from the day Dr. Murphy got involved and improved the standards until today and to any point forward, are people who have the skills to do the job and, quite frankly, are health care professionals, just like a nurse, or a doctor, or an occupational therapist and, as I say, I think we have to recognize them as that and recognize that their role is crucial in the health care system because they are the first people to arrive usually. They are the first people to deal with someone who has either fallen sick or has been in an accident. They are the ones that have to deal with them in a very volatile situation, one with many variables, before they are able to bring them to a hospital, a sterile and more controlled atmosphere. I think that is important that we recognize that these paramedics, these EMTs are in a situation where they are health care professionals and we should be recognizing them as such. I think, sometimes, when you look at this particular bill, you will see that that is not how they are being treated, particularly if that is how we are going to treat them with regard to legislation like Bill No. 9.

The last step in all of this was the one organization running the ambulatory services in this province, the EMC, which is now the employer of the paramedics that are now trying to negotiate a deal, unfortunately, until the government stepped in and decided that they knew better, like big brother. I think it is important to recognize that back in the mid-1990's, there was a consolidation of services. It now comes under one employer, one organization, again a step of harmonizing and rationalizing, but at the time same time now what we have is one set of negotiations going on.

Many would say that is a good thing in this province. We have 650 paramedics that we can ensure are going to be treated with the same level of care, the same level of treatment and, hopefully, one contract that will ensure that they are being treated fairly. Where before we might have had various standards ranging from the Halifax-Dartmouth area to Guysborough County and many other places where maybe the standards weren't as high. I think it is important that the EMC consolidation took place. Again, I will get to that a little later, but it is important to recognize that all these steps that took place from 1993 to 1997, so to speak, were important in bringing us forward and recognizing paramedics as health care professionals and recognizing their role in the health care system, both financially - the costs that are saved - but also, obviously and most importantly, by the lives that are saved.

That is important to reflect on. Paramedics are the lifeline to health care in our province. Many people come into a hospital on their own volition, whether it is a small injury, to the ER or through their doctor, who may deal with them. In many cases, in the most traumatic situations, they come to the hospital through an ambulance, whether it be an accident or whether it be a heart attack or some other form of illness. We have to recognize, much like what has been done in the past few years, that these are professionals, that they do have a role to play, and we must begin not only to recognize it based on designation or certification, but also based on the wages that we pay them and the working conditions.

[Page 847]

I think it is important to reflect, like other health professionals, they deserve to be provided with proper working conditions and proper wages so that they can do their job properly. We wouldn't ask nurses to do 100 hours straight work without being properly paid, and paying them in a way that they are going to be ensured that they meet minimum labour standards. The same with doctors, many people hear the stories, if you know doctors, of the long hours that they pay to become a doctor, on call, and so on and so forth.

I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day who is an anaesthetist in Dartmouth. He was telling me how he spent 10 straight days on call, the impact on him, the amount of hours he had to put in, how he was only home for two or three hours at a time on any given day, and some days maybe he didn't even make it home. But you know, because doctors are paid fairly well in this province, as they should be for the skills they have, that pay reflects the work that they provide as key parts of the health profession, as a key health professional, as a role that they play in our economy and in our health care system, we reflect that by paying them properly. Unfortunately, ambulatory workers and paramedics are not paid the same thing. I think that is a key point as well.

As I say, this is something that comes also from the heart. I think you have heard that earlier from some of the speakers, whether it be my friend from Timberlea-Prospect or my friend from Cape Breton Centre or the member for Cape Breton South. It is pretty hard to divide a motion on this issue from the facts, and reflecting on the fact that what is being done here is a travesty against a lot of, not only workers, but people in this province, workers and their families, and how they are being treated. But also the people in this province that require and rely on paramedics and the jobs that they do.

What this piece of legislation does is, it cuts the legs out from under any opportunity for these paramedics and their families to negotiate a fair working wage for them and fair working conditions so that they are able to move forward and know that the province is respecting their skills, respecting what they do and paying them fairly, and giving them working conditions that show respect towards them.

MR. JERRY PYE: The operative word is cut.

MR. DEVEAUX: As my friend from Dartmouth North notes, this is about cutting. This is about preventing the negotiation of a collective agreement between the workers and the employer. Now maybe that wasn't intentional. I would suggest it is, Mr. Speaker, but in this particular case what we have, whether the province intended to do this by introducing Bill No. 9 on Friday, what they have done is, for all intensive purposes, stop negotiations. It is very hard to negotiate in good faith when you know that to a great extent, in five days or six days there is going to be binding arbitration.

[Page 848]

Binding arbitration, I may note, requires both parties to consent to the matters going forward, except for a few odd ones. Therefore the employer holds a lot of cards and is able to say I am not going to negotiate in good faith; I am not going to deal with this openly because I know I am going to be able to take it to binding arbitration and, except for a few key issues, I can actually keep a lot of things off the books and not have them go to binding arbitration. Because of that, Mr. Speaker, you have actually thwarted the bargaining process. What the government has actually done is stalled and stopped something that may have resulted in an agreement that both parties would have agreed to and both parties would have been able to deal with.

The irony of all this, Mr. Speaker, is that we talk about the fear of strikes. It is the very rare labour dispute that results in a strike. They do happen from time to time and some would say they are a necessity in the need to ensure that we have free and fair collective bargaining. The fact is - and I don't know the exact statistic - but I believe over 90 per cent of all labour disputes are settled before they actually have a strike. Now you might say there are only five days left, but I would suggest to you that a lot of those are settled in the last five days. No one likes to strike, no one likes to lock someone out and, in those last five days, that is when the hard bargaining begins but, before it could even begin, this province and this government decided to nip it in the bud, as they might say - cut it off at the knees, as I might say - and prevent them from being able to come forward with an agreement that both parties can agree to.

That is going to have long-term implications for the morale of the workers, Mr. Speaker. It is hard for them to feel good about an agreement in which they, of course, didn't really have any ability to negotiate; maybe some of the conditions, but it is very different when you have negotiated an agreement. These are young people. This is a fairly young union, how it is organized, and to see them cut off and not able to negotiate their agreement, not buy in - as some people would use as a buzz word - into the agreement, prevents them from being able to sort of feel comfortable with that agreement.

They are never going to be happy with it, they are never going to feel that the conditions are properly agreed to. There is that give and take as part of the negotiations that has been eliminated through this process and that will never really be truly understood unless you work in that workplace, unless you are a paramedic or a manager with EMC and you see exactly how it will impact on them, Mr. Speaker. We will never know. We will go back to our houses, we will continue to debate other bills in here, and we will probably never know except maybe unless we have to call 911, and when the paramedics come, maybe then we will have a good idea of exactly how good the morale is. Unfortunately that is not the time to find out, and this isn't the process to use to try and lower their morale or to try and prevent them from obtaining what they deserve through negotiations.

[Page 849]

As I said, Mr. Speaker, we have come a long way in the last five years or six years with regard to recognizing paramedics as health care professionals, but if we are really truly going to recognize them as professionals, much like occupational therapists, nurses or physiotherapists, then we have to begin to recognize some basic tenets of what it is to be a professional. A couple of those are better pay and better working conditions. To pay someone $7.00 or $7.50 an hour and consider them a health professional is not showing them the respect they deserve, it is not providing them with basic living standards that allow them to provide for their family, particularly when it comes to health care. I think it is abominable for anyone, but particularly in the area of health care.

These are people who are well trained, who have incredible experience, who have incredibly stressful jobs and who provide for their families in a way that you would hope - given their skills, their training, their certification - they could do but, unfortunately, at the salary provided them they cannot. Instead of letting them try and negotiate something, a first contract, maybe they wouldn't get everything they wanted, Mr. Speaker, but they could begin the process. What this government has done is they have stifled that, they have prevented it and they are in many respects not showing respect to the workers, not allowing them to be recognized for the work and value that they provide.

[10:15 p.m.]

I think even more importantly, Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that in many cases with regard to working conditions, the paramedics are exempt from basic minimum standards in this province, whether it be the Labour Standards Code or even the Occupational Health and Safety Act which maybe they are not exempt from but in many cases it is difficult to get a labour inspector to go into a hospital, let alone to go out and deal with people in an ambulance and the work that they do. For all intents and purposes they are exempt whether or not the law says it or not.

Mr. Speaker, under these working conditions, if this was a nurse, maybe they might have to work long hours but they would be provided time and one-half. They would be provided with decent conditions to allow them to do their job and know that they are being respected for it. That is something that we have not provided to these workers and I am not sure why. I really do not know. I do not know why this bill could not have reflected that, whether it be an acknowledgement that these workers should be covered under the Labour Standards Code, whether it be certain basic conditions being laid out with regard to the number of hours they could work before there would be time and one-half, or whether there had to be long-term breaks. These things can be done. Do not say they cannot be because everyday we see other provinces imposing back to work legislation that also imposes the actual wage increase.

[Page 850]

If we are going to go and remove pieces from the law and start to say that people cannot strike, then maybe we should be trying to ensure that certain standards are in place. What this government has done is, they are trying to prevent free and fair collective bargaining between the workers and the employer without actually ensuring that there be fair working conditions. What they have done is, what is normally considered a balancing act between the employer and the workers, they have tilted in favour of the employer as has been done in the past and again, as I have said before, is indicative, I think, of an agenda that is going to come from this government time and time again over the next four or five years.

The key point I want to make is that we went from volunteer firefighters, we went from funeral homes operating ambulances, to a consolidated ambulance service, first response, emergency services, where people had to be certified. There was a natural evolution that was going to occur. We were going to move from some fairly antiquated means of dealing with first response to a certified and harmonized process. The next step naturally was to begin to recognize these paramedics for the work that they do, for the pay they should receive, for the conditions they should have to serve under. It was a natural progression. It would have happened through evolution.

This government has stepped in the way of that evolution and said, no, we do not want that to happen. We do not want to see these paramedics receive the respect that they should. Let's move forward in a way that stifles them from getting what they deserve so that we can ensure that they do not receive the respect that they deserve. I think that is the important thing.

What really boggles my mind, Mr. Speaker, is that we are in many ways a generation behind other parts of the world, particularly North America. Back in the 1970's when I was a kid, I used to watch a show called Emergency which was based on the L.A. Fire Department. Actually I think it was the former Minister of Health under the Liberal Government, Ron Stewart, who was a consultant to that show.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Technical adviser.

MR. DEVEAUX: Technical adviser I am told by the member for Cape Breton Centre. That was a great show. I loved it as a child because you had Station 51 with the firefighters and the paramedic crew. They would be called in. They worked closely with the hospital workers and with the doctors and the nurses. They provided services that could not be provided by many other people. There were very interesting stories, I am sure they were not very realistic but in many ways they provided me, as a child, with some sort of explanation of what a paramedic did. This, as I say, was 25 years ago. (Interruption) There you go, Gage and DeSoto. That is right, Kevin Mantoothe is the one I remember as the person who was the young guy with the dark hair.

[Page 851]

Mr. Speaker, what we had with that show, as a child, I learned. Maybe, it is funny, but I learned through American television, but what I learned was that paramedics are to be respected. They are a valued member of the health care system. In parts of the United States, if not all the United States, they are being provided with adequate services, adequate working conditions and adequate pay for what they did and 25 years hence, we, in Nova Scotia, the opposite side of the continent, we still have not agreed to do that; ironically, even though the person who is giving consultation to the American television show came from this province and tried to help move us in that direction earlier in the 1990's.

I find it ironic that, given that, we are still not in a position to recognize the workers the way that even, as I say, the Americans. I would be the last one to compliment the American health care system, but I find it quite interesting that at least when it came to first response and paramedics, the Americans seemed to have something in the way of doing it right 25 years ago and we, as a province, have not even begun to recognize, with respect, some of the things that these workers need.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk a bit more about working conditions. Some of you may know that my background is in labour law, particularly in the area of occupational health and safety, and employment standards. I would like to talk a bit about that, because I think it is crucial with regard to this issue. What we are talking about here are working conditions for those who are paramedics. This is a safety issue, this is a minimum labour standards issue. If the government tries to cloak it in something else of public safety, I will talk about that a little later. But let's be clear, this is also an issue of health and safety, not only for the workers but for the people they have to deal with.

In particular, with regard to the Labour Standards Code; it is a code, in this province, that goes back 25 years without amendment. I think 1974 was the last time we passed a Labour Standards Code in this province and, quite frankly, it is the worst Labour Standards Code in the country. I think it is the one that has gone the longest without amendment. What we have done, having worked in the Department of Labour before coming here, Mr. Speaker, I am very well aware of the hard work that the labour standards officers attempted to achieve, basically with sticks and stones: trying to rub two sticks together in order to ensure this law actually protects the workers of this province; it doesn't work.

Even given those minimum standards - and I will give you an example - in many provinces there is a minimum amount of work per day, so that no one can work 24 hours per day. Someone can only work eight hours without extra pay, and then after eight hours, maybe there is time and one-half. In particular, Mr. Speaker, in the Labour Standards Codes of other provinces they actually provide for lunch breaks; God forbid we don't do that in this province.

At least, with regard to labour standards, there are some minimum standards. After 48 hours of work in a week, you must be paid time and one-half. What we have in the case of this particular piece of legislation on the paramedics, is that they are not even being

[Page 852]

recognized as having to be provided with those minimum working standards. Again, Bill No. 9 could do that, it could provide for those minimum standards, but this government has decided not to.

As I say, labour standards is an interesting component of labour law, because it isn't just dealing with what is collectively bargained, which is under the Trade Union Act, but it is supposed to be mandatory, minimum standards that are not negotiable; no employer, no worker can contract out of them. That is key. We think these are so important - minimum standards, minimum wage, hours of work, overtime, vacation pay, maternity leave - yet our paramedics are not covered by these basic minimum standards that we take for granted. I think that is a travesty and I don't understand why this bill doesn't address it, I really don't.

As I say, Mr. Speaker, from my own personal experience, when I used to work in Ontario for the Ministry of Labour, I used to deal with what they call the Employment Standards Act, what we call here the Labour Standards Code. I used to deal with people every day, whether they be waitresses, employees in stores or professionals coming to me because they felt their rights were being violated when the Employment Standards Act was not being applied appropriately to them.

I used to see from them exactly what it was they were trying to achieve. They knew they had basic rights, and they knew those rights should be provided for them and that money should be provided to them in reflection of the rights that they had, but instead, what we see in this province and what we see with regard to the paramedics, is a slap in the face, so to speak. Instead of providing them with the standards they deserve and the pay they deserve, what we get is this cutting them off and preventing them from negotiating fair and freely what they deserve.

This goes back even further, Mr. Speaker. The history of labour standards goes back even before trade unionism; we are talking about child labour laws, we are talking about laws with regard to particular women and how they are treated. I think it is important that we recognize that the Labour Standards Code, even though it may be flawed, at least provides some minimum standards, and this particular government is not willing to allow the paramedics to ensure they meet those minimum standards.

I think it is also important to reflect on the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Mr. Speaker. In particular, I have had some experience at the Department of Labour dealing with negotiation of occupational health and safety. Ironically, some of the regulations that were drafted by union and management still are not passed, whether it be because of the former Minister of Labour or the current Minister of Labour's inability to move forward in those areas.

[Page 853]

I think it is important to reflect that what we have, Mr. Speaker, in those areas, is management and labour sitting down and negotiating. That is an interesting experience because it is very similar to what was going to be happening before this piece of legislation came forward. When you have management and labour sitting down and sort of banging heads and working through their problems and coming to agreement, whether it be on working conditions under occupational health and safety or under the Labour Standards Code or whether it be wages or other salary issues under collective bargaining, what we get in the end - it is a difficult process, no one ever said it was easy - is a management and an employee group that feel much better about that decision. What they negotiated themselves is more likely to be supported and be defended than something that is imposed upon them. I think is a basic . . .

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mutual respect.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mutual respect, as the member for Timberlea-Prospect notes and I think he is right. They buy into the conditions under the occupational health and safety or the wages and salary under collective agreement. When they are imposed from above, you never get that buy-in, you never get that comfort zone with regard to exactly what they have to do and why they should have to abide by the rules. Again, that goes directly to morale. It goes directly to how they are going to feel on the job and how they are going to feel towards this government, towards their employer, Mr. Speaker.

The problem in this particular province, Mr. Speaker, is that we don't meet national standards; whether it be the Labour Standards Code or the Occupational Health and Safety Act, we have a tendency to lower standards. It is funny, some have said the Mississippi of Canada. I don't know if I would go that far. I don't think we are small enough to the Mississippi. I would say more the Alabama of Canada is probably more like it. What we do, we try to lower standards in a way to entice employers here. We saw what happens with something like Westray. The same thing happens with regard to our paramedics. If we don't provide them with the proper conditions, the proper standards, whether it be under occupational health and safety, labour standards or collective bargaining, we are not allowing them to feel comfortable in this province, that they have a position with respect and are considered professionals.

As we have heard from others who have debated this bill already, Mr. Speaker, you are going to start to see paramedics look for work in other places where they know they can be paid a fair wage, where they know they can get decent working conditions and raise a family on the salary they are going to receive. That is a problem with regard to how we look at paramedics.

So with regard to this issue, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the problem with Bill No. 9 is that we don't allow for the protection of paramedics, providing them with the basic minimum standards that they deserve under the Labour Standards Code or the Occupational Health and

[Page 854]

Safety Act. Maybe it could have been negotiated under the collective agreement. Some would say these things aren't up for negotiation, that they should be part of the mandatory sort of rules that are in place under our laws but what we get instead is neither. We don't allow free collective bargaining to ensure that these issues are addressed. We don't allow them to meet the minimum standards based on the Labour Standards Code or the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Instead, we impose something upon them that will, in effect, probably not result in them meeting those working conditions at all. That is a problem and that is one of the main reasons why I cannot support Bill No. 9.

I think, as a Nova Scotian, and as all Nova Scotians would agree, Mr. Speaker, we deserve paramedics that we treat fairly. This isn't just an issue of paramedics though I think that is paramount. It is also an issue of everyone who is going to need that health care system. As we age as a population, and that is happening, we are going to need more and more paramedics, there are going to be more and more calls to 911 and if we treat them the way we treat them then for sure they are not going to stay around for long, they are not going to be here and they are not going to want to do their job very well either, although I am sure they will because they are dedicated.

I want to talk, Mr. Speaker, a bit about how this bill reflects on the agenda of the government with regard to health care. I was talking a bit earlier about paramedics and how paramedics have evolved from the volunteer firefighters and the ambulances run by funeral homes to what Dr. Murphy was doing until today. But they are a symbol of other changes that have occurred with regard to the health care system. We have moved from what many called a doctor-based system or a medical-based system.

I think the former Minister of Health, the member for Dartmouth East, was talking about this the other day in Supply debate, where it used to be based on the doctor and we had to go to doctors for everything, whether it be a referral to a specialist, a referral to a physiotherapist or whatever the ailment. That was a system that worked fairly well for many years but what we have seen over the past 10 years, particularly since the Blueprint on Health Care came out, has been a change, a change away from doctor-based to sort of multi-disciplinary health professionals, recognizing that doctors have certain skills that other professionals don't have but also recognizing that they are not the most cost-effective way of dealing with some issues. There may be a nurse or a nurse practitioner who can deal with some things; maybe an OT or a physiotherapist can deal with some others.

[10:30 p.m.]

Just as importantly, maybe a paramedic has a role to play as well. Maybe we see that the paramedic is a health care professional, that they should be accorded with the respect, the conditions and the pay that ensures that they are going to want to be part of the health care system in this province and that they are going to do their job well, given the conditions that

[Page 855]

they have. Sort of a way of saying that in the last 10 years we have recognized that there are new skills and there are new roles to play towards people in the health care system.

I would suggest that as a government and as a province, what we should be doing is nurturing and promoting those roles and those skills. That was what was done with paramedics. We saw a need to increase and harmonize the standards, and we did that. We now have better qualified and more certified paramedics and EMTs and we are all better off for that. Importantly, what we have here is a situation where it is also cost-effective.

As I said earlier - and I said I would get back to this a little later - what we have is a situation where paramedics are a cost-effective means of introducing people to the health care system. Obviously, they don't have much choice. They call 911, a paramedic arrives. But better a paramedic who has the skills to better stabilize and better deal with someone before they bring them to the hospital, therefore preventing some long-term costs that might accumulate over time.

Mr. Speaker, that is why paramedics are not only important for health care, as health care professionals they are also cost-effective. What this government has done is it has said that we don't recognize them as an important player in this system, we don't see them because we don't think they deserve the conditions and the pay that they do deserve, and we are going to move to a system - and this is my point on this issue - that this is a new agenda from the Tories, and we saw this also with the regional health boards.

Again, the member for Dartmouth East was talking about this in Supply debate. This has to deal with the fact that this government's agenda, I suggest - and we will see over the next four or five years - is back towards a more doctor-based system, hospital-based, more acute care, less first response, less long-term care, less dealing with health professionals other than doctors, andI have a real concern with that.

That is why Bill No. 9 is so scary to me with regard to how they are going to deal with the health care system, whether it be regional health boards or paramedics or any other issue we are probably going to see in the next three or four years. We are seeing a regression back to the way things were, not a moving forward, an evolution towards a system that reflects on all the professionals who have a role to play with regard to our health care system.

This isn't just turning back the clock with regard to health care, although I think that is what it is doing, it is also a form of old-style politics, sort of hierarchial or even elitist, looking at those at the top, whether it be doctors or whether it be other professionals, the sort of traditional professionals, and seeing them as the ones who can do the job and are the ones who are the best able to deal with issues, and not recognizing all those other professionals, the new professionals as we might call them, again, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, paramedics, and the roles that they play and how vital they are to ensuring our health care system operates properly.

[Page 856]

There is this desire to turn back the clock, this desire to say things aren't working so therefore we must change back. I guess, by being a Conservative Party, that is what they believe. Let us move things back to the way they were. Sometimes you can't turn back the clock. It is like Pandora's box, once you open it, you can't close it again. With regard to the health care system, we have better-trained, more professional, and better-skilled people working in the health care system, more than just doctors and specialists, and if we are going to ensure, and we have ensured that they play a vital role, it is pretty tough now to say your support, your provision of services isn't as important now because the doctors are going to play a much bigger role in how this system operates.

I think that is the wrong way of doing it, and I don't think it will succeed. As someone mentioned last week, with regard to the regional health boards, it is just going to create chaos in a system that has had chaos for many years. At least that chaos was moving forward, but now we are using chaos to move back, and Bill No. 9, again is indicative of that.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is also important to talk about the issue of how this bill affects the economic agenda of the government. It does, and I think it is important that we reflect on that. As I noted earlier in the Throne Speech, this government suggested that as a government they wanted to step back, to move away from being interventionalists. Let the people of Nova Scotia move forward. I guess it is not that different than how Adam Smith used to describe the invisible hand of the free market, allowing the market to regulate itself, not allowing government to come in and intervene. It is not necessary I think they would suggest. I am extrapolating a little from their Speech from the Throne but I think it is also important to reflect on what exactly this means. Again, what is the agenda that we are talking about.

Mr. Speaker, this is a neo-liberal agenda, small "l" liberal, that is trying to bring things back to the way they were before 1933. I say 1933 because that is the post-economic crunch, new deal era, that came in with regard to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and even Mackenzie King in this country, where it resulted in the need to have the government intervene to ensure that the market worked more effectively. Some called it a mixed economy. Some called it a Keynesian economy but what we have seen in this Speech from the Throne and what Bill No. 9 I think is a perfect example of, or could be, is an issue of neo-liberal policies, trying to bring back a system of laissez-faire economics, a system where the invisible hand of the market, indeed free enterprise, is what will dominate in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite ironic that when we talk about the free market, when we talk about two parties in the free market negotiating between themselves, working out things without government intervention, without much regulation, without as many rules, that we do not do the same with regard to the labour market. It is funny that laissez-faire and free enterprise are always the buzz words when we are talking about government's relationship to business and business to business development, but when it comes to the labour market and when it comes to collective bargaining between workers and the employer, or the government, free enterprise is thrown out the door.

[Page 857]

I find it quite interesting that in this case, Mr. Speaker, intervention is what is the order of the day, where the government may talk of not wanting to regulate and not wanting to intervene, when it comes to collective bargaining, they are more than welcome, they think, to come in and intervene in a way that thwarts free enterprise. In the normal system, collective bargaining is actually one of the purest forms of free enterprise we have in our system; our legal system and in our employment system and in our system of contracts. It is two parties. In fact, something rare in the law, two parties of almost equal strength, the workers and the employers, sitting down to try and negotiate, in this case the paramedics and EMC, in a way that they try and negotiate the conditions of the workplace, the pay, the salary and all the other things.

That is what a collective agreement is about and free enterprise, Mr. Speaker, as I said, is almost in its purest form when we are talking about labour negotiations. Two parties of equal strength sitting down, negotiating something that will be binding on both of them, a contract, a contract that both parties have basically, because of their almost equal strengths, are not really being coerced into. As I say, my reflections as a lawyer in the past is that that is a fairly rare thing in our society, that we actually have two parties of almost equal strength negotiating and coming to an agreement.

Mr. Speaker, some would say that is the problem with our collective bargaining system, because, in most other areas there is one party with all the power and one that does not. Therefore, there is no real push and pull or tension between the parties because in the end one of them has got all the cards and the other does not and, therefore, one has to give in and try and take the crumbs that are handed to it. In the collective bargaining system we have two parties, the employer and the union, of almost equal strength. There you have the banging of heads and you have them with almost equal power and, therefore, that is why we have strikes. That is why we have the tensions that can occur in workplaces that maybe we do not find in other areas.

I will suggest to you that it is that very balance that was struck back in the 1930's, both by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the United States and by Mackenzie King in Canada, have allowed for better working conditions, instead of being thrown crumbs which had been done for decades before 1933. What we have now, much like we should have with the paramedics, is a debate and a negotiation that results in better working conditions and an opportunity for the workers to rise up and to be able to gain more and have better conditions and better pay.

As my friend, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, noted earlier, this money that they get, this money that is presented to them in higher wages or in overtime pay not going to go to a bank in the Caribbean, it is going to be spent here in Nova Scotia. That is what has really helped to raise our standard of living in this country and in the western world, that we have had collective bargaining for the last 65 years that has allowed for the distribution of wealth through free enterprise. I find it ironic that a government that in its Throne Speech talks about wanting more free enterprise and wanting to go back to a neo-

[Page 858]

liberal agenda, is actually when it comes, as I said, one of the purest forms of free enterprise, actually wants to stop it and stifle it and prevent it.

Bill No. 9, does not allow them to have the free and full collective bargaining that so many workers have fought for, still fight for and deserve, Mr. Speaker, and that is one of the biggest problems I have with this bill. This bill goes against what this government has said, and what most governments should be saying in this country, and that is that free enterprise is an important way, when both parties have almost equal power, to ensure that they can negotiate a deal, whether it be in business or the labour market, that both parties can live with. This government has decided to intervene in one of its first pieces of legislation in a way that I would suggest. . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Is a dangerous precedent.

MR. DEVEAUX: . . . is a dangerous precedent, as my friend from Timberlea-Prospect has noted. I think that is what is really important here. This is the nub of this bill, Mr. Speaker. It is funny because those parties that would espouse to the neo-liberal ideas area always keen on espousing them except when it comes to the issue of labour market. I see my friend, the Minister of Justice, suggesting that neo-liberal might not be the term that applies, but if you go far enough back, to classical liberalism at a time - and I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, dealing with the issue of the paramedics, that truly the term conservative means almost staying put, not wanting things to change.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tradition.

MR. DEVEAUX: That's right. Then classic liberalism dealt with the free market, free trade, free negotiation, and free enterprise. Free, what a big word really, but something that was believed back in the 1800's. It was only when the Keynesian economics came in that got pushed aside towards a mixed economy. So wanting to move back to that is, neo-liberalism. I think it is important that we clarify that point. It is something that I will bring up in my Reply to the Throne Speech if I have an opportunity to raise that at some point in the next few weeks, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: If we ever get around to it.

MR. DEVEAUX: That's right. If we ever get around to it. There will probably be another bill, emergency situations that we need to deal with. As I said, free enterprise is all fine and well, except when it comes to the labour market and that is what we are seeing with this government, trying to prevent the free and full negotiation of an agreement between two parties of almost equal strength. The union in this case, for paramedics, the collective workers; and the employer. What we have seen, Mr. Speaker, is trying to eliminate that process.

[Page 859]

So, I think it is important to make a couple of final points specifically about some of the issues surrounding this bill. To start with - I think my friend from Cape Breton Centre noted this - one of the more specific problems I have a problem with is this government using the term public safety with regard to the need to introduce this bill. I think the question to ask, Mr Speaker, is what is really the issue of public safety? I would suggest to you, having paramedics who make abominable wages for the skills that they have, who are working excessive hours - up to 100 hours a week I have been told - whose workings have not allowed them to ensure they can provide for their family and at the same time also ensure that they are getting both the pay and the decent conditions that most people would expect in this country.

As others have noted, whether it is the 99th hour or the 100th hour of the week, do you want a paramedic coming into your workplace or your home when you call 911, to basically have to attend to you? Is that public safety allowing our paramedics to have to work those conditions, Mr. Speaker? I don't think so and quite frankly again, in a free and fair collective bargaining process, those conditions would have been dealt with. Those issues would have been handled, would have been addressed through a collective agreement and we could have ensured that those were being addressed fully.

Instead, this government has felt the need to intervene and as I said, in conclusion, this is an issue dealing with both. Where this government is going to go on health care, where this government is going to go on its economic policies and where this government is going to go on its labour policy - it does not see the need with health care to move forward towards a more multi-tasked, multi-disciplinarian, recognizing and respecting the professionals that deserve the respect - but I suggest they are going to move backwards towards a more doctor-based system.

[10:45 p.m.]

This is a government that, with regard to labour, is not prepared to recognize minimum conditions that need to be not only improved in this province, but extended to people like paramedics. This is an issue that through economic issues is not about to reflect on the need for full and fair collective bargaining, reflecting on the fact that if they believe in free enterprise this is one of the purest forms of free enterprise, but instead are willing to throw that all away, throw what they are supposed to believe in, for purposes of trying to address this issue in a quick and nasty manner I may suggest.

That is why I can't support Bill No. 9. That is why I think Bill No. 9 is wrong on all those issues I have addressed, and I would hope that we would vote against it. (Applause)

[Page 860]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I stepped out a few moments ago and I observed, going right up the hill at full gallop, an ambulance. They weren't coming to get me, thank God, but they were going to get someone. They were on the job even as we speak here this evening.

This past Saturday morning I was in my constituency office receiving constituents and their many requests and submissions, and I heard a very loud bang and we went outside to see what it was. A car had gone out of control across the street and smashed right into the building across the street from my constituency office that had served as NDP headquarters. It went right through the wall. The poor lady who had lost control of her car was sitting behind the wheel unconscious and somebody said to me to call the ambulance. I called the dispatcher and I was told that they are on their way already, and they arrived almost just as I hung up the telephone. To be truthful with you, they were there almost instantly.

I mentioned those two things to make the point that I think we are pretty well served by our ambulance system. There are times when we remember certain groups in society that serve the rest of us. We remember our fallen comrades in arms on Remembrance Day. We remember our volunteer firefighters at appropriate occasions, and I think it is appropriate at this time that we pay some attention to the people who toil in our emergency health care system and services. We owe them a very deep debt of gratitude. They perform what is called an essential service. What is an essential service? One wag put it to me this way: There is something that we have today that is certainly not an essential service and that is Tory Government and Tory MLAs. They are certainly not an essential service at all, they are a very temporary, passing service, and they will soon be gone.

An essential service is one that is actually required by society, and that we have in such services as fire and police and ambulance and other such related functions. Those who work in those services should be adequately compensated for their efforts. I know that on Remembrance Day we remember our soldiers, sailors and airmen. Sometimes when you check the wages that they were paid to go and fight for their country, it is shocking really. So many cents a day, that type of thing, maybe $7 a week, or $8 a week, if you were married. It is amazing what these people were paid. That was many years ago you say, that is not the case of the Canadian Armed Forces today. They are probably the best paid Armed Forces in the world.

Well, yes, but then we look at our paramedics and we find that they are certainly not adequately or appropriately paid, I would think that what most right-thinking Nova Scotians would want any responsible government to do for these people would be to see to it that they received adequate and just compensation for their efforts. I think that is what we ought to be sitting until midnight or afterwards to try to get through, not the garbage contained in this bill.

[Page 861]

In just considering this whole situation overall, there are a number of points I want to make. I think it is manifestly unjust what is happening. I am not surprised though, when I consider the track record of this government to date. They have been in office less than three months, they have only just begun. As governments go, they are only babies yet and look what they have done already. This is the third or fourth chapter in a sorry book that they are composing as they go along of their record. They attacked the private charities, they attacked the disabled . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to speak to the principle of the bill only, please. Thank you.

MR. MACEWAN: I am speaking to the principle of the bill, Mr. Speaker. This is an attack on the paramedics of Nova Scotia and it is one in a series of attacks on various groups in society in which all have a common denominator, that they represent the have-nots and those least able to fight back to defend themselves. I would state, sir, that I consider such a course of action by a government to be odious.

Did they hold out the promise that they would do things like this on their way to office? Most certainly not. I have scoured this inconsequential document from cover to cover and nowhere in it do I find any hint that they anticipated doing such a thing. Indeed, under the heading of health care, it is surprising but there is no reference to paramedical services at all. None.

In terms of generalities such as in little pamphlets like this one, this provincial brochure, there certainly isn't any hint given that this would be their top legislative priority, as it is, because this is the first major piece of legislation. I know that there was one other item that is gone through and is ready for the Committee of the Whole House on Bills or perhaps even third reading but it is a measure so minor that no one would be really be paying much attention to it except those directly affected.

This is the first major piece of legislation that they have produced as a government. Now what you do first usually reflects your top priority. Items that you don't consider as important, you do later on but those things that you consider at the very head of your agenda are what you do first and this is what they have done. This is their first item on the agenda and look at the lengths to which they are going to try to steamroller it through.

I think it is fair to note that in the few years that I have been up here, Mr. Speaker, I have never previously addressed the House at this hour of the night, that I can recall, and I don't think I have ever faced a bill of this type before. (Interruption) I don't know what was said in the mumbling across the way. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I will pay no attention to the intervention. I didn't hear it and I am sure it was of no consequence.

[Page 862]

Mr. Speaker, I cannot recall the House ever having been scheduled to sit until 2:00 a.m.in my 29 years and some days in this place, never prior to this. This is a first. I suggest that having a House sit until 2:00 a.m. - and I hear that they want to sit at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow - constitutes a breach of the privileges of the House and of its members, sir, because surely in setting the hours of the House, they ought to be set in such a way that members are entitled to have adequate sleep so that they can be mentally alert and competent to attend to their duties here. The denial of sleep is one of the methods that was widely used by the KGB to try to extract what they wanted by way of a confession from a prisoner or from a person who had been detained. The use of such tactics to try to obtain the passage of legislation in this House, sir, I suggest is a departure from democracy as it has been known in Nova Scotia up to this time, a departure that I think is not only regrettable but deplorable. (Interruption) We were told . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The member for Preston is speaking.

MR. MACEWAN: I suggest, Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member opposite wants to pursue this point that there is no court in the world where if the trial judge was to be sitting on the bench until 2:00 a.m. and then be scheduled to resume at 8:00 a.m. the same day, that a prisoner or a person accused could not move for a mistrial on the grounds that the learned judge did not have an ample opportunity to obtain the rest necessary to pay proper attention to the case before him or her.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member could explain to me what that has to do with Bill No. 9? Maybe there is some relevance but I do not see it so I would ask the member, if there is no relevancy, please, refer to the principle of the bill.

MR. MACEWAN: It is always in order, Mr. Speaker, to raise by way of an observation on the procedure of the House a point, an observation. It may or may not be guised as a point of order. I am commenting on the way in which the government is handling the passage of this bill in the House - legislation by exhaustion, which I suggest is a breach, sir, a point of privilege, which you, sir, as Speaker, have to be concerned with because how can the members of your House adequately attend to their duties if the government intends to schedule this House to sit until 2:00 a.m. and then resume at 8:00 a.m. the same day in the morning. It is impossible.

It has never been done before in the history of this province. We can go back to the days of James Johnson, or Joseph Howe. Check the Journals of this House and find the hours that the House sat. I am certainly prepared to place a reasonable wager that the House has never before in history sat these kind of hours to attempt to obtain the passage of legislation. It was not done on the Michelin bill. I was here in those times. The Michelin bill did not require that kind of scheduling. We may have sat long days, long hours, but the hours were not deliberately scheduled in such a way as to attempt to exhaust the members of the House

[Page 863]

so that they could not attend to the legislation that was before it and to try to attempt the passage of legislation by denying members adequate rest and adequate opportunity to be alert.

That, sir, is not democratic and I suggest it is a breach of the privilege of the members of this House. If the members of the House can be required by majority motion to sit 24 hours a day, or 20 hours a day, so that they cannot properly attend to the duties of considering and giving adequate examination to the measures brought before the House, that, sir, in my view, is a very tragic, severe and serious breach of the privileges of the House and of its members.

Now, sir, I want to say this, having registered my protest about the way in which the House and its members have been treated by this government opposite, that this government opposite obtained office on the strength of certain promises and commitments that can be documented. We have already established that they did not mention any position at all on paramedics in their platform, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, but we do have extracts from various documents, such as the one I have here in my hand put out by an organization called The Progressive Conservative Association of Nova Scotia - Speeches, and it comes from a website. The website is that of http://www.pcparty.ns.ca. So I presume that comes from the crowd opposite.

"We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. My Party has already drafted legislation . . .", I suggest it to be this bill here, Bill No. 9, "that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standards laws of this province - and we will proceed with that legislation if elected as government tomorrow.". This must have been dated just the day prior to the election because he uses the word tomorrow to state if they are elected, they will do this. They will bring in this legislation designed to give our paramedics reasonable and fair compensation for their efforts to save lives and provide them with fair treatment under the labour standards laws of this province.

That was the commitment, Mr. Speaker. This is the delivery, the reality. I did some research to try to identify where they got this particular piece of legislation from. I didn't have to look terribly far, because I know which governments in Canada are reactionary and right-wing and where you get the most anti-labour legislation that could be imagined. So on my website, I accessed the Statutes of Saskatchewan. I found Bill No. 23 of 1999, An Act respecting the Resumption of Services by Nurses and the Concluding of a New Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Representative Employers' Organization and the Union.

[11:00 p.m.]

That bill and this bill, Bill No. 9, are virtually identical in structure. Bill No. 23 from the NDP in Saskatchewan begins, short title, Clause 1, "This Act may be cited as The Resumption of Services (Nurses - SUN) Act.". This bill, Clause 1, says, "This Act may be cited as the Ground Ambulance Services Act.". So they took out one title and stuck in another and came up with the same thing, basically, in terms of a formula.

[Page 864]

Clause 2, the Saskatchewan Act, "In this Act:", and there are a number of definitions including, "'work stoppage' means a lock-out or strike as defined in The Trade Union Act.". In this one they reversed the order of words and said, "'work stoppage' means any strike or lockout.", rather than lock-out or strike. They flipped the order of the words from the Saskatchewan bill and came up with this bill, on that particular clause and on various other clauses including definitions of employee, employer, respective employers' organizations, union, wages payable. Various other such terms are virtually the same in these two pieces of legislation, one from Nova Scotia, one from the NDP in Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan nurses legislation did provide - and I want to show you one way in which this government has demonstrated it is not going to be quite as bad as the NDP - for a fine of not more than $2,000 for the first conviction and in the case of a continuing offence for a further fine of $400 for each day or part of a day during which the nurse in Saskatchewan went on strike. This bill provides for a penalty of not more than $500 for the first offence and for a further penalty of $100 for each day or part of a day during which the offence continues. They charge only one-quarter as much for the first conviction as the Saskatchewan NDP does, $500 as compared to $2,000, and only, again, one-quarter of what the Saskatchewan bill provides for $100 a day . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member would mind moving from Saskatchewan back to the ambulance services, back to the principle of this bill.

MR. MACEWAN: My remarks are devoted exclusively to this bill, Bill No. 9, in the context of the legislative skeleton on which it is based.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member knows full well, with all respect, that the bill we are talking about this evening is to provide for the continuation of ground ambulance services in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. MACEWAN: I have concluded the observations I had wished to make on that point in any event. (Laughter) We see the source from which they have derived inspiration. I know the geologists have identified what they call the impervious layer, and we may have the impervious layer opposite, but I have tried in my gentle and quiet appeals to reason to admonish them not to be guided by the NDP as they attempt to develop their ongoing legislative agenda; advice which I see they have spurned, and it will be to their regret. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on this bill in the context of the comparison between the former Liberal Government and this government now in office, because when this Liberal Party was in power, we faced a number of very serious difficulties on the bargaining front, but never once was legislation of this type introduced. I know, and others have said before me, so I trust it won't be ruled out of order because it wasn't ruled out of order for them to say, other speakers before me have noted that if our Party was still in office, we have no

[Page 865]

doubt that we would not be introducing this legislation here at this time. We would not. We would have had the moral courage and the maturity to have dealt with that situation as we dealt with the others that we faced and saw them through.

Now, this is the first collective bargaining agreement difficulty that this government has faced. The very first one. We faced many. We dealt with them all in a calm, cool adult way and got them solved, every last one, without legislative coercion. This government, on the other hand, panicked the moment that they saw any possibility of difficulty ahead. This heavy-handed action is their response.

We, in this Party, Mr. Speaker, faced the potential for strikes, or strikes, I should say, in 41 nursing homes throughout Nova Scotia. We weren't the employer there either, we weren't. We did remain committed to the process that we saw as fair and we saw the process through and it worked. Now we have come the full circle, the situation today is basically the same as it was in March, except that the shoe is now on the other foot.

I am not here, Mr. Speaker, to advocate strike action. I know that it can be a very unpleasant and ugly and unfortunate kind of thing. But I believe that it is part of the democratic way of life. I don't believe that this legislation is so much about money as it is about rights. I believe that it is about rights. I have studied extensively, as we move towards Remembrance Day, the stated war aims of the Canadian Government in World War II. One of them was that Canada and the world's democracies were committed to a free labour movement, as compared to the enslavement of labour, which is what, it was held at that time, Fascism was for.

Legislation of the type now before us, in Bill No. 9, is a retrograde step that seeks to take away people's rights. That is what the bill does. It is a backward step. It is an attempt to take away from people rights that they have and to substitute them with a coercive process that this government in its mindset views as superior and preferable to the former collective bargaining process. When you really come down to it, that is what this bill is all about. It is not a matter of money, because you could use a coercive process to bestow money, there are certainly many instances in history of governments that have used coercion of various types to, yes, increase wages, grant workers bonuses and so forth, but by decree rather than by collective bargaining. This is one of those types of measures. It is a measure that, in my view, is fundamentally wrong. It was never hinted about by the government on its way to office and something that I believe they will live to regret.

I noticed today in The Daily News an editorial headed, "Tories take wrong track on medics". It states many of the things that I have been stating here this evening. It states that, "Paramedics have been recognized as an essential part of Nova Scotia's health-care service. But the way it has been demonstrated by the Hamm government is not a compliment. It's callous and infuriating.".

[Page 866]

I remember there used to be a television program called Emergency, which dealt with a team of paramedics, I believe they were supposed to be in the Los Angeles area but they were attached to a fire department and this was in the 1960's before colour TV and one of my little fellows who was just a little guy at that time had to watch Emergency everyday because that was his idea of what he thought a big grown up man should be like, those paramedics who worked out of that fire station and got people who had been hurt in accidents and cats that had climbed up trees and couldn't come down, and so forth, and attended to those needs.

I think that program demonstrated the importance of these services to a community in a way that even a small child could easily understand. Strange that small children could understand, Mr. Speaker, but this government can't. If these are emergency and essential services that we are talking about, one would think that a right-thinking government would want to see that no effort was spared and that every initiative possible was undertaken to see that the providers of those services were adequately looked after, whether it be by way of a proper wage, whether it be by way of proper coverage under the Labour Standards Code, whether it be by way of proper coverage under workers' compensation, or by way of provision of those things that they need to adequately and properly discharge their duties. But just as this government approaches other matters in this respect, they have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

I don't know what more I could say, Mr. Speaker, to challenge the callousness and the cynicism of any government that would come to power on the strength of a commitment, stating that we want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives - we have already drafted legislation that would provide for the fair treatment under the labour standards laws of this province - and then bring in a bill of this kind to implement that kind of commitment. It is mind-boggling. There is no possible justification or explanation, which perhaps may account for why the debate on the bill has assumed the form that it does with no members opposite rising to explain or defend themselves at all.

I must say this, Mr. Speaker, I trust you won't rule me out of order, but I am just making a reflection on the way the House has evolved over the years that I have been here, but when I was first elected to this place, the debates of this House were debates. They were back and forth. There would be on speaker on this side followed by one speaker on that side. The speaker on this side would make certain points and somebody else on that side would get up and refute them or rebut them.

I remember Allan Sullivan and Peter Nicholson and some of the members that we had in those times and how able they were at that kind of debate, back and forth. But here it is kind of frustrating because you make all the points you can think of, you get up and explain your point of view and there is no answer provided, just a stony wall of silence. I find that kind of attitude and approach and procedure, again, to be very undemocratic because surely the essence of democracy, in my view, Mr. Speaker, of Parliament itself, is to be a place where there is give and take in discussion. Parliament is based on the French verb parler,

[Page 867]

which means to speak. You speak back and forth. It doesn't mean to sit in your place and say nothing hour after hour.

I have observed the British House. It certainly doesn't operate like this. I have observed the House of Commons in Ottawa from the gallery. It certainly doesn't operate like this.

AN HON. MEMBER: Relevance.

MR. MACEWAN: Relevance, they say. Yes it is very easy to shout relevance but not defend your legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear! Hear!

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, that certainly, in my view, is a cop-out.

Mr. Speaker, the ultimate court to which we all stand answerable is that of public opinion. I have observed over my years up here how transient life in this place can be, both the life of individual members and the lives of governments. Those who are in power today can be on this side tomorrow. We have seen that in this group here. But they could see it too. I remember not so long ago there was a Conservative member of this House by the name of Hinrich Bitter-Suermann.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Who, who?

MR. MACEWAN: He was a Tory and he wasn't a Tory very long. One might think that very possibly there might be some members over there who are chafing under the bridle. It would only take four or five of them to leave there and come over here, to either group on this side, and that government would be out of office. So I don't think it is appropriate for any of us to get too pumped up on the arrogance of our own temporary power that we may be able to exercise here. What is important in the final analysis is that what power we are temporarily entrusted with, we use justly. That is what is important, and how future generations will view our actions and decisions as we make them.

[11:15 p.m.]

Yes, it may be expedient for this government in a certain sense to ram through this kind of legislation by the methods of which I have complained because, in the short term perhaps, they may succeed in maintaining uninterrupted services. They may destroy the morale of the workforce. They may cause honest and dedicated workers to come to a point of total despair and to leave Nova Scotia, or leave their current employment and take up some other kind of employment. They can destroy the morale, and they can perhaps fill the ranks with new recruits and carry on. I don't know, but I do know this: this is one heck of a way to run an essential service. If this service is as vital and as essential as we appear to all agree on,

[Page 868]

goodness sakes, you would think they would want to encourage and inspire the workers who are involved in that operation, rather than to demoralize, if not destroy them altogether.

This is certainly reverse psychology. It is extrinsic motivation at its worst and certainly, I don't believe that the health care services of Nova Scotia are well served at all by this type of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, because this legislation is odious and objectionable, I believe that the members of the Opposition - and I am speaking here of both Opposition Parties - are duty- bound to do all that is within their power to prevent the speedy passage of this bill. I see this as a matter of duty. I think that we are faced with perhaps an element of a showdown between two sides, the government feeling that they will use exhaustion and long hours and not participating in the debate and so forth to try to get their measure through.

Someone mentioned something about John Buchanan. Yes, John Buchanan was the author of these particular tactics at the time of the Michelin debate in 1979, which marked a turning point in this House, a new development which prior to that time had never taken place. So on Bill No. 9, they do the same thing. It is a practice that I am familiar with. I have seen it before and, if they remain in office, no doubt we will see it again. That legislation led to a great deal of ill will in this province, which festered on for many years. Again, I think that if we can learn from history, if we learn from past experience, surely we would see that we wouldn't want to make that same type of mistake again.

Mr. Speaker, I have pages and pages here of notes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, good. Keep going. It is your duty.

MR. MACEWAN: Oh, good, says an honourable member. There is so much more that could be said. It is my duty indeed, but there are other honourable members who also have the duty to participate in these matters as well. I do feel that a serious and detailed study of the publications - I was going to call them the propaganda, but that word seems offensive to some, although there is nothing wrong with it, it is a good word. It means that which propagates - the propaganda that was advanced at the time of the election, including the Hamm plan and all the rest of it, there is absolutely no hint given that, if elected, a Conservative Government would make this its number-one legislative priority and would push everything else aside.

There is only so much time available in a session of the Legislature, and look at all the commitments that they gave the people of Nova Scotia, most of which they indicated they would carry out in year number one. How will they ever be able to carry these things out when they have shoved the agenda aside, shoved that list of commitments to one side and are going to get bogged down in the mud, in never-ending trench warfare with this kind of

[Page 869]

legislation and with the confrontational approach that they have taken towards trying to get it passed by the House?

I am reminded of the Battle of Verdun in 1916, in which one million men lost their lives. The rallying call of the French Army at that time was "ils ne passerant pas", they shall not pass. These people opposite shall not pass if we on this side of the House have our way. They shall not pass this legislation. They shall not pass their drastic hidden agenda, which they did not reveal at election time, but now is fully revealed here in the House. We, on this side of the House, will do our utmost to try to force them back to common sense and to reality and to carry out the things that they said they would do rather than the things that they never even hinted at but now pull out of the magician's hat. This is the Hamm plan in action - leading the way to a new Nova Scotia.

Here it is, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 9. Strengthening our communities, Bill No. 9 is the way to do it. Securing a future for today, Bill No. 9 is the way by which they propose to do that. Providing effective government, Bill No. 9 is the way by which they propose to do that. Securing a future for the next generation, Bill No. 9 is the way to do that. Achieving maximum value, Mr. Speaker, for your tax dollar, get this, Bill No. 9 is the way by which they propose to do that also and so on and so on.

Mr. Speaker, I do not propose to speak for an entire hour. I have made my point and I know that there are other honourable members who intend to participate also in the debate, but I do think that the government will come to regret this hasty and ill-thought-through course of action. We intend in what opportunities are available to us to point that out to them and to appeal to public opinion because public opinion is where the next election will be decided.

Believe me, Mr. Speaker, the next campaign begins the day after the election. That is when the next campaign begins. In other words, it is under way right now and this government will stand judged by what it does. The results of the next election will be decided far more by the record of this government as illustrated by Bill No. 9 than by anything that we on this side of the House might do because I feel that they have a great deal to answer for and will be held answerable in due course.

Mr. Speaker, they boasted of strong leadership. I suppose it might take a bit of a degree of strong leadership to try to railroad this kind of legislation through the House. They boasted of a clear course although they never said what it was, but now we see what it is here in Bill No. 9. They claimed in 30-odd long pages, all these different, I think there were 253 specific commitments, at least that is the number I think that the people in our Party counted, but they are all enumerated there and we can check that list. They are all checked off here in the book, for year number one, three-quarters of them with a check mark under them, but actually those check marks should be all erased because right now the report card is blank. We are awaiting these things that they said they would do in their election platform.

[Page 870]

What is now before the House, Mr. Speaker, was not in that book, was not part of their platform, and I challenge this government to get off this mistaken track that they are on and to get back on track and do those things that they said they would do because the people of Nova Scotia are waiting for them to deliver what they promised instead of this nonsense called Bill No. 9. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to stick to the principle of the bill and try to relieve the stress on the Speaker as much as possible. I am not going to quote very many people but I certainly will quote the honourable Minister of Health and that should keep me well on track, I think. There is one quote I do want to make and it is, "Nevertheless consultation took place in good faith. Good faith I think is a very important part of any type of negotiation.". Members can probably guess the context of that but I want the members to be aware that that statement was made by our present Minister of Labour and that was while he was in Opposition.

I wonder what happened to good faith when that honourable member got to the other side of the House because this Bill No. 9 takes away collective bargaining in good faith from paramedics. I would like to hear the honourable Minister of Labour explain that to this House and how he justifies the conduct of this government in regard to that statement that he already made.

Mr. Speaker, I guess all members would know that I am still relatively new to this House, first elected here in the election of March 1998. What I am observing at the present time is that the Legislature is more theatrical than I ever realized. It is like, when election time comes, the members get up, they leave their scripts at their desks, and then they switch places, Liberals and Tories, and they pick up the script that is at their desk, and they proceed and believe it.

I think that really is a shame. I think that when Nova Scotians say Liberal and Tories, same old stories, that is the reason they say that. The honourable members opposite, who are now in the government, certainly would have argued the case from this side to give collective bargaining, and to protect collective bargaining, to paramedics. I hear very little coming out of them when they are on that side of the House today. I think that is disturbing.

I think it is a shame that my honourable colleagues to my right, and I guess they are far more to my right than I ever realized.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is he talking about us?

[Page 871]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Yes, I am. (Interruptions) My colleagues to the right complain about what the government has done in this bill, and yet they had ample opportunity to make adjustments to the Labour Standards Code and didn't do it. I am curious as to why it is that we have our second Premier who is a doctor and yet we find that we get such a lack of compassion from those Premiers.

I have tried to avoid quoting the Premier's statements as other members have, and for one particular reason, that members are certainly, by now, aware of them and they have drawn the contrast between what the Premier has said and what the Premier has done. I think to echo those words would really only be an echo. The Premier's words bounce off the wall, but they have no lasting effect. Therefore, there is no point in repeating them.

I think that honourable members in their own communities probably have volunteer firefighters or maybe a number of volunteer fire departments, as I have in my constituency, and I think that at just about everyone of those volunteer fire departments there has been a sign out in front of those fire departments this summer that says, we support paramedics. I would like to know when the honourable members opposite go home to their ridings, and if their local fire departments have signs that say, we support paramedics, how is it that they explain this piece of legislation. I think they will have a job doing that.

The Minister of Health has stated that even the best contingency plan could not hope to match the work provided by 600 paramedics, especially in the event of a province-wide withdrawal of services. I think if the Minister of Health can say that, then he must realize, to some point, the value that these people have to the health service of this province. He is shaking his head no, I am assuming from that he doesn't realize the value that they have. (Interruptions) He says he has always supported them. (Interruptions) Somebody must have given him the wrong bill the other day. (Laughter)

This was an opportunity for the honourable minister to actually give his philosophy of how he supported them, what he felt about the role that paramedics have in this province, and he neglected to do that. He didn't do it in his speech today at all. He says that the government had three options, do nothing and hope that the situation would resolve itself through the normal bargaining process, put more taxpayers' dollars in the hands of the employer, and attempt to find a compromise solution which was fair for both sides. Well, I guess this must be the compromise that was supposed to be fair for both sides, because it is obvious that number one and two are gone.

If we consider the statements made by the minister in this House I find that this piece of legislation is a bit confusing in the sense that he has on more than one occasion stated that he didn't want to intervene, Mr. Speaker, in the collective bargaining process, but yet this bill does exactly that. This bill restricts the ability of paramedics to bargain in good faith and I would say if the minister didn't want to intervene, then this was certainly not some action that would indicate that.

[Page 872]

[11:30 p.m.]

The minister is also interfering by saying that there is already enough money on the table to provide the paramedics with a fair and reasonable settlement. So if the minister is aware that paramedics in this province, Paramedic I and Paramedic III, both work for approximately half of what paramedics at that same level work for across the country, then I would ask him, did he investigate this at all, what they are being paid, and if he did investigate it, or he didn't investigate it, in either case it wouldn't make any difference, how could he come up with that statement? If he didn't investigate what they make, then he couldn't make the statement that there is enough money already on the table. If he did investigate that statement, then he would realize that they were making about half the money that anybody else is, so he still couldn't make that statement, yet he did.

The minister has never really justified how he can go about that, how he can say that there is enough money on the table knowing, if he does know, that they are making about half of what other paramedics would be making across the country, and if he didn't investigate it, he still couldn't do it.

This statement itself is an interference in the process because the minister is already setting an agenda by stating that there was already enough money on the table and he is also showing a complete disregard for the value of the work that is done by paramedics in this province. Actually this should be a wake-up call for other civil servants who have collective agreements that are going to have to be negotiated by this government.

The minister said that to sit idly by and do nothing would have been an abrogation of the duty to protect the public's safety and this was unacceptable. Since when does not sitting idly by mean that you have to bring in a regressive piece of legislation like this, that would take away the bargaining rights of the people you are supposed to be concerned about. If the minister does get advice from the people in his department or the people who are closest to him, was this the only possible plan that they could come up with? If he is worried about safety, as other members have already stated, how can relying on paramedics who have worked excessive hours not be a safety factor for the people they are trying to pick up?

I would think that somebody coming to pick up an injured person on their 90th or 99th hour of work in a week, should probably be spelled off and have somebody else come and pick up somebody who is injured. I don't see that the best interests of the public is being perceived when we don't address the number of hours paramedics are working. I think that the minister certainly could have set some minimum standards in this legislation to ensure there was some recognition of the problems that paramedics face, not to mention the problems that the people who they serve are going to face by the extended hours and low pay that they receive.

[Page 873]

The minister says no one gets all they want. Well, the minister is probably right there. Very few people ever get all they want, but there is a big difference between having a history of getting most of what you want and having a history of getting nothing of what you want. I think in this case the paramedics are playing catch-up, Mr. Minister, and therefore there is an awful lot that they should be getting, that they would want, and the minister has taken steps to see that that doesn't happen. I think that is irresponsible of him, considering the history of the paramedics in this province.

Bill No. 9 makes the Chair a government appointee so the board essentially has two employer representatives. We can assume that the government doesn't want to pay more than they have to for this service, and we will assume the employer doesn't want to pay more than they have to for this service, so that out of three representatives, basically two are employer representatives and one is an employee representative or the representative for the paramedics.

The government has done three things actually right off the bat, first of all, they are saying there is already enough money in the system. They are saying that no one gets all of what they want. Then the government gets to appoint the Chair of the board, which basically gives the two employer representatives more of the power than the paramedics. I think we can all see where this is going.

I am not sure if the members of the government have missed recent events by the federal government in this country, but the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has supported pay equity. What we are saying here is that people doing the same job deserve to get paid the same. This is obviously a message that has been missed by the government. Also the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld that ruling. Therefore, now the federal government is grappling with that, it hasn't made a decision as to whether it is going to challenge or appeal that, but I would think that this government would recognize that what the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has identified and what the Supreme Court of Canada has identified is that people doing the same job deserve the same pay.

We have already stated to this government, and they would be aware from other presenters and from the paramedics in this province that they are not being treated equitably compared to other paramedics in the country for the same service. I think that maybe my drawing a comparison between Liberals and Tories is truer than even I thought, because obviously this Tory Government has missed that point.

When the Emergency Health System of Nova Scotia came into effect, it forced the new and improved system on the backs of the paramedics. Paramedics were forced to take upgrading training to ensure that they meet the new standards set forth by Emergency Health Service Nova Scotia. They were forced to attend in-service for new pieces of equipment so that they would be able to give better care to their patients. They were forced to take training at their own expense. Now we are telling them that they don't have the right to bargain in

[Page 874]

good faith for fair treatment in spite of the fact that they are legally unionized, dues-paying members.

Mr. Speaker, what are the options for paramedics? Well, the first option, I guess, would be that if you want to get properly taken care of by your employer that you will probably have to go out of this province. That would be the first thing. Considering all the considerations that we all have when we think about our employment, then the first thing is the family that we would be leaving if we had to go, and then the family that would be directly affected by us staying, in other words our children, et cetera, and whether we can provide in the best way that we would want to for them by staying, therefore it might be in their best interests to leave and go somewhere else.

The other option, of course, is to stay. If you stay, then you are going to have to work under probably some of the worst conditions that there are to work under if you are a paramedic in this country, and then there is going to be one other worst condition added to that and that is the fact that you are going to be ever more overworked because there are other colleagues of yours who are leaving the province because they don't like the deal that they are getting here.

This bill in no way addresses anything of the Labour Standards Code. We can't say that according to the Minister of Health that this is about safety, because applying this for three years has nothing to do with safety, it has to do with money. Also, the retroactive pay back to October 1, 1999, instead of going back 15 months, is also about money and not about safety. So therefore the minister should clarify a little better why he takes safety as the reason for this bill and not just cutting dollars and therefore probably cutting service to Nova Scotians.

I am not sure why, but it seems to me that members opposite never seem to be able to walk in another man's shoes. I don't know how you can try or say that you represent all Nova Scotians when you are not willing to look at the world through their eyes. There seems to be only a certain segment of the population that you are able to see and the rest of them in some way or some service provider that can be talked down to and that's what this piece of legislation does.

I wonder if people ever question why we have collective bargaining agreements? These are agreements that are put in place so people can bargain in good faith. Because people if they can get an advantage, use that advantage and most often history has shown, they don't bargain in good faith. They exploit the people they bargain with to their own advantage. The minister is actually eroding any advantage that the paramedics might have had. We were not up to the last hour of negotiation and he could have at least allowed the natural levers, and a strike or a threat of a strike is a lever. The minister has removed that.

[Page 875]

I certainly hope - and I guess I warned the minister - that the consequences of this bill, and in particular the fact that we may wind up with a shortage of paramedics, is something that this bill will not cure. I would warn him that he may be in for more serious problems with this piece of legislation than he is hoping to cure. I would like all members of this House to think again about the impact of this bill and to try a greater negotiation tactic that would work to the benefit of paramedics and would work to the benefit of health care providers in Nova Scotia. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I rise here late this evening, a little confused, disappointed and concerned about this piece of legislation. I really don't believe most Nova Scotians are aware of what is taking place regarding this bill. First off, I would like to discuss the bill a little bit perhaps.

Bill No. 9, Mr. Speaker, is obviously ill-conceived without a doubt. First, beginning off with my speech tonight, I would like to discuss the issue with the paramedics. Paramedics, of course, are first-line health care workers. I think we shouldn't get away from that issue, that they really are front-line health care workers. They are essential services and they are recognized by several members of the Opposition and government as being an essential service.

Just to discuss a little bit about what paramedics mean to our society and our residents, I will discuss my own personal case, Mr. Speaker. I am a father, of course, and leave my home every week since this House has been sitting, come here and try to represent the people of Cape Breton The Lakes in an honest manner and I feel very privileged in having the opportunity to do that.

[11:45 p.m.]

While I am here, I feel very uncomfortable that my children at school, at home or at play, can incur an injury at any time. For instance, I have a 13-year-old girl who could choke on a piece of bubble gum at school; she could fall and hit her head. Many things could happen; she could get hit with a car. I feel very comfortable and confident that the front-line workers who would respond to the original call will be there and have the training to provide what is necessary to provide life to my daughter.

I think it is obvious that these paramedics are underpaid, overworked and, of course, under-appreciated, particularly by this government. That concerns me, Mr. Speaker. This is a government that was elected to represent rural Nova Scotia. They have the plan for rural Nova Scotia. In rural Nova Scotia most paramedics get paid $7.00 an hour, while in urban areas some paramedics get paid over $11 an hour. The field has to be levelled-out in my opinion. Some paramedics work 42 hours a week while others work as many as 120 hours

[Page 876]

per week. I have spoken to paramedics who have to work numerous hours in order to bring home a fair pay, in order to feed their children and take care of the bills they have in their own household. When you have to work 24 hours on and 24 hours off, I think it is important to recognize that these front-line health care workers contribute half their lives to this industry.

I am a little concerned about the direction that government is going. I think other unionized members, as well as unions throughout the Province of Nova Scotia should be concerned about Bill No. 9.

AN HON. MEMBER: All fair-minded people should.

MR. BOUDREAU: If you are going to treat one group different than the other, then I do not see that happening here with this government. The wages for these paramedics are so low that most of them have to work 70 hours to 80 hours a week. They do not have a choice. They cannot work 40 hours and go home because of their low pay. You have to work 70 hours to 80 hours just to, as I said previously, pay the bills, look after their children, and keep their households together.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, it has been reported that one paramedic made a statement that he worked 96 hours straight without home time. He probably had a coffee break in between, but I guess I would ask how I, well I will answer the question that I am about to ask, I would not feel comfortable with a paramedic attending to my child after 96 hours of employment, particularly in this field where it is a very rapid response, a call can happen at any moment. I think it is unfair working conditions and I think this government knows it.

I think we tend to forget how far front-line health care has come, and I think it is this Party that has contributed to bringing it as far as it has. I do not think we should forget about the taxi drivers answering calls for ambulances. The only requirement was that you had a chauffeur license and a first aid certificate and you could drive an ambulance.

Today, Mr. Speaker, these paramedics are second to none in this country. They are well trained. They contribute a great deal to their job and not only that, they care. They care about you. They care about me. They care about your children and they care about your neighbour. They care about the senior down the street and they care about just about everybody. In fact, I do not know anybody that they do not care about.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, in 1997 there were approximately 52 operations throughout the province. Today there is one. These changes improved the system and it was the Liberal Government of Russell MacLellan that made these changes that improved the health care. Although those changes occurred, their benefits did not. Of course, the collective bargaining process, everyone, particularly in government at that time, felt that the bargaining process would deal with the issues that these front-line workers had. That, of course, we learned today will not be the case because there will be no bargaining process; there will be none.

[Page 877]

The front-line health care workers faced a challenge and they met that challenge. Their challenge was to deliver the service that they deliver today in a very professional manner. I do not think there is any individual in Nova Scotia who can stand up and say that the paramedics are not first-class service-oriented individuals. Then I would have to ask why they do not, at least in the opinion of today's government, deserve fair wage and benefits from their place of employment. This is a first contract and we all know it takes a lot more than one contract to bring fair agreement, but I believe it is very important for these front-line workers to have level ground in their bid to negotiate a fair deal.

I think every Nova Scotian has the right, Mr. Speaker, to earn a fair wage for what they do. In every industry in this province people have the right to negotiate their salaries and their benefits and that is a democratic right, I believe, and it is a right that this government is now taking away from the front-line hospital workers. You really have to have a real understanding of what emergency health care really means in order to have an understanding of that comment. Most paramedics are compassionate although this government is not showing much compassion back. They deserve financial compensation for what they earn and what they deserve because they choose to help people and they care about people. That is why they are in the industry that they are in.

Mr. Speaker, I believe they have the right to earn more than $7.00 per hour for the service that they deliver. I don't believe that most Nova Scotians are aware of exactly what Bill No. 9 is doing to the paramedics. I would just like to take a moment to go through the bill and highlight some of the issues that I feel are important, that Nova Scotians should know.

First of all, I am here criticizing this bill and I am certainly not pointing my criticism directly towards the Minister of Health, because I really do believe, firmly, after reviewing all the information that I have been provided, that criticism should be directed throughout the entire Cabinet of this government. I also believe that the caucus has to accept the responsibility of what is taking place here, because I don't know if they fully understand exactly what is taking place.

For instance, the Minister of Labour, under this bill will have the power to appoint the chairman of this arbitration committee. Anyone who knows anything about this political system knows that the chairman really runs that committee. Although EMC will have a representative there and the union will have a representative there, the power in this whole process has been passed from the Minister of Health to the Minister of Labour, which I believe is really very dangerous to our society. I really don't believe it is called for.

It is also important to note that the costs of this arbitration will be paid one-half from the employer - which is EMC - and the other half will come from the union, which I think is another issue that is very unfair to the unionized people. I really don't think they should pay

[Page 878]

union dues to help cover the direction that this government is heading in. I don't feel that is fair.

It is also important to note that the decision of the arbitration board is final and conclusive and not open to question or review. Does that sound like democracy to you? It certainly doesn't sound like democracy to me? This bill is an insult to the labour movement in Nova Scotia, at least in my opinion. It is an insult to every ordinary working man in this province. It should not ever have been brought into this House. I think the government and the Premier will have to accept responsibility for doing so.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to go forward and mention a couple of comments that the Minister of Health indicated during his speech. This bill deals with an issue of enormous public significance. It is obvious in that comment that the minister at least, if not Cabinet as a whole but at least the minister, is aware of what significance this bill has in public interest. "When Nova Scotians . . . they expect their emergency health care to respond . . . Nova Scotians nevertheless feel there are certain issues that can never be compromised. Emergency health care fits into that category, Mr. Speaker.".

[12:00 a.m. (26/10/99)]

Mr. Speaker, I would prefer to have a question and answer here so that the minister actually could indicate just exactly what that type of statement means, because I am a little confused as to exactly what message that statement is intended to deliver.

He continues, Mr. Speaker, "This government did not take the decision to introduce this legislation lightly. We . . .", meaning the government, ". . . respect the commendable efforts put forth by the province's paramedics. These workers deserve fair and reasonable contracts, but they are currently involved in a dispute with their employer that has dragged on far too long. This dispute has reached a point where a strike is a very distinct possibility.".

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to know what that statement means. For me, I think the sole leverage is to take the bargaining power away from the front-line health care workers and place it in the hand of the employer.

"Mr. Speaker, as a government we have an obligation to intervene in the dispute in a way which is fair to both the employer and the employee." I would suggest that this isn't so, especially since the Minister of Labour is going to do the appointments here.

The minister also continues, Mr. Speaker, ". . . following a series of ratification meetings, the union announced that its membership had rejected the agreement. While we . . ."- we meaning Cabinet or government - ". . . may not have agreed with the choice they took, we certainly respect the memberships right to decide whether to accept or reject the

[Page 879]

tentative agreement.". I would suggest that that statement just isn't so. "We were obviously disappointed in the final outcome of the vote."

The minister continues, Mr. Speaker, "With the rejection of the tentative settlement, government became increasingly concerned about the potential impact of a province-wide strike and what it would mean for public safety. As required by the Department of Health, EMC had a contingency plan in place . . .". Then I would suggest, why this bill? Why the bill, if the plan was in place, why be concerned?

Mr. Speaker, for me this is a key statement by the minister, "On the issue of funding, we were confident that there was already enough money on the table to provide the paramedics with a fair and reasonable contract settlement.". I just want to comment on that comment. I would like to ask exactly who enough money was for? Was it for EMC, the company itself? It obviously was not enough money as far as the paramedics were concerned.

Mr. Speaker, the minister continues, "In most disputes . . . no one gets all they want.". Why is it then in this particular case, I believe, the company gets all that they want and the employee gets nothing. "So they must compromise.", the minister says. They must compromise. The union must compromise. The " . . . compromising process appears to have broken down . . . Under this scenario, both sides will have ample opportunity to put their best cases forward and have an independent arbitrator . . .", the Minister of Health states. How can that be, when that arbitrator is appointed solely by the Minister of Labour? I have a problem with that.

What is interesting is this statement, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Health continues, "What is also interesting about this process . . . is that there is still an opportunity . . .", although the minister does not indicate who would benefit from this opportunity. "Negotiations can continue even after the arbitration . . . has begun and if the two sides can reach an agreement on issues, then arbitration won't not be necessary." I would suggest that the process is now a lame duck because of the direction that the minister, the Cabinet and the government, the backbenchers, have taken with Bill No. 9. The whole process is nothing but a lame duck.

The minister continues, Mr. Speaker, ". . .the government's action in dealing with this threat to public safety is premature, that we could have waited a bit longer to see if the two sides could resolve their differences on their own.". Then the minister continues, ". . . if that means intervening in a labour dispute . . . then so be it.". I think by the time the Minister of Health made this statement the decision was made long ago.

The Minister of Health continues, Mr. Speaker, " . . . but the easiest decisions are not always the right ones.". I would suggest the right one and the easiest one was for this government to provide the proper funding to the health care, the health system, EMC, the front-line workers and pay these people for what they are worth.

[Page 880]

Now the minister indicates very clearly that he wants to seek a compromise. This is quite the way to seek a compromise, Bill No. 9. The minister continues, " . . .will result in a contract that reconciles the interests of the employer and its employees, . . .". This bill, Mr. Speaker, does not deal with the interests of the employee. It deals with the interests of the employer and that is very clear to me.

I have done some research on this, Mr. Speaker, - actually this was before I arrived on the scene - December 1, 1997 and I obtained this from Hansard. Mr. Ronald Russell, Resolution No. 197, and this was put to the House on December 1, 1997, before the present government took power in July. He said:

"Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas paramedics across Nova Scotia provide an important and vital public service; and

Whereas paramedics are not given the same basic rights and protection under the Minimum Wage Order, the Labour Standards Code and the Workers' Compensation Act as most other working Nova Scotians; and

Whereas many paramedics in rural Nova Scotia continue to work up to 120 hours per week under difficult working conditions, putting the safety of patients at risk;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health . . .", who happened not to be the minister at that time, it is important to recall, ". . . meet with representatives of the NSGEU . . .", and representatives of rural paramedics not presently members of the NSGEU, ". . . to discuss work-related concerns and, further, that he urge the Minister of Labour and the Chief Executive Officer of the Workers' Compensation Board to move quickly in extending the rights and protection afforded other Nova Scotian workers to Nova Scotia's paramedics.".

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what happened to the present Minister of Labour. This is him speaking in 1997.

[12:15 a.m.(26/10/99)]

I also have another one for you, Mr. Speaker, March 25, 1999, this year - before July 27th, it is important to note - from the honourable member for Kings West, who happened to be a former Minister of Health, Mr. George Moody:

"I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 881]

Whereas despite seeing an improvement in their living conditions, paramedics across Nova Scotia are still faced in some cases with 100 hour work weeks, paying less than $7.00 an hour; and

Whereas ambulance service at the present time in many regions of Nova Scotia has plenty of questions that need answering; and

Whereas unless over 800 paramedics are able to reach an agreement with their employer on a new working contract in the coming weeks, Nova Scotians will see more than 800 paramedics on strike and ambulance service in a state of chaos;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health, knowing that job action by paramedics is not too far off, move to ensure an adequate contract agreement is reached between the two sides, and in the process ensure Nova Scotians that in the event of an emergency, an ambulance is hopefully only one phone call away.".

Mr. Speaker, that resolution was put forth by the former Minister of Health, Mr. George Moody on Thursday, March 25, 1999. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order.

AN HON. MEMBER: Let my people go.

MR. BOUDREAU: I would also like to address a comment made by our present honourable Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia. This statement was made on July 26th, one day before election day in this province. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. I know it is getting late, but the member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor and we should give him his due time.

MR. BOUDREAU: This was a speech by the Honourable John Hamm, on Monday, July 26th:

"We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standard laws of this province - and we will proceed with that legislation if elected as government tomorrow.".

I would ask the Premier, what exactly is this? It doesn't exactly seem to me to be a reasonable and fair avenue for the paramedics to have to deal with the issues that they are trying to deal with on a daily basis in this province and within their industry.

[Page 882]

Now these guys stand up, Mr. Speaker, and they say we only have four days left, we have to take action. This government was well aware of the issues within this system prior to being elected as the Government of Nova Scotia on July 27th. I would also suggest, if they had any insight and any courage to stand up and fight for the issues for the paramedics, like the previous administration did, then we would not be in the mess we are in today and we would not be here in this House at midnight.

Mr. Speaker, one more favourable comment that I have is that paramedics have been recognized as an essential part of Nova Scotia's health care system. Then why are they not treated like essential care workers? That is what I would like to know. Why are they not treated equally with other essential workers across this province?

Binding arbitration, Mr. Speaker, is just not the way to go. What is surprising to me is that I feel that this government knows very well that it is not the process that the paramedics deserve. They earned better, they earned the respect of every Nova Scotian. I sit here in the back and I listen to my honourable friends across the way. They stand up and say, I am an ordinary Nova Scotian. Well, I am just as ordinary as any individual in this room. (Applause) Thank you. At least I will be able to tell my grandchildren that you guys over there, whatever you want to call yourselves, clapped for me. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: I will just provide the information I am in possession of and they can judge for themselves what honourable people you are.

Mr. Speaker, I have witnessed the commitment that the paramedics make in this province. I have witnessed on a first-hand basis. When I look over across the hall, we are all smiles and everything else. I don't think it is one bit funny. I think it is a shame for you to sit over there and even consider smiling or laughing when over 600 people, who provide the commitment that they do to our families, our friends, our neighbours, our children, and the everyday ordinary citizens that require their help on a daily basis in this province, I don't think that is funny.

Mr. Speaker, the bargaining process that is in place in this country and in this province was no easy battle to be won by the ordinary worker in this province or this country. It was a long, drawn-out process. I suggest that this bill eliminates all those years of struggles from the coal miners in Cape Breton to the people who work in the mines in Ontario or the farm fields out West. I don't think it is funny, not for the people I represent.

We have a Premier today that Nova Scotians showed confidence in, in July because they believed in what he said and they believed that he would deliver. (Applause) Well, Mr. Speaker, I hear applause over there but I would like for one government member to stand up

[Page 883]

and tell me why this Premier earned - there is a difference - to date, any one commitment that he has made out of 243, there hasn't been one, that I am aware of, commitment fulfilled yet.

AN HON. MEMBER: The jail and the forensic hospital. (Interruptions)

MR. BOUDREAU: I am glad you mentioned the jail. You have $2 million and $3 million with your baker's dozen decisions that you are making, to go and spend $2 million and $3 million but you haven't got the money to support the front-line workers in case one of your children need them. You don't have that money. I would be ashamed to mention the jail.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus in particular, had several questions last week to the Minister of Health and we asked whether the minister met with EMC to discuss wages and other issues and if the minister had a contingency plan. Incidentally, the minister said that since this was an issue between the employer and the employee, he would not get involved. That is what he said in this House. That was the day before he presented this. I know the Minister of Health presented it, I am still not clear on who created it, whether it was the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Health, the entire Cabinet, the Premier, I don't know who it was. But I can tell you one thing very clear in my mind, that is wrong. It is wrong and they know it.

Is the tabling of this bill the contingency plan? Is this the Tory plan, Bill No. 9? Is that the plan? Actually the minister indicated that he saw, if I recall correctly, a contingency plan. He said he saw it, Mr. Speaker. Then the tabling of this bill, if that is correct, removes the right of the paramedics before they even have the opportunity to exercise it. He took the right away before they had the right to exercise it.

The minister also indicated that he would prefer and also expressed his desire, very clearly, to see both sides negotiate. I guess I would ask with binding arbitration and the Minister of Labour setting up this arbitration hearing, whatever it is, commission, board, I don't know what you want to call it. I would like to know how paramedics are going to have a fair process in which to negotiate. I would like to have that explained to me.

[12:30 a.m. (26/10/99)]

In fact, Mr. Speaker, the very tabling of this bill forces the government smack-dab in the middle of the entire negotiating process and guarantees, in my opinion at least, that the negotiating process will cease. It takes the balance of fair bargaining from one end of the table and squarely lays it on the other end of the table. I would suggest that with comments being made, particularly by the Minister of Health, that they are fully aware of that and that is why this bill was tabled.

I guess it is fair to question whether this is the start of good things to happen. Is this the greatest thing we are going to have? Is this how we are going to negotiate with the employees in all units across this province? All the employees who have contributed a great

[Page 884]

deal to this province and create opportunities for all Nova Scotians, is this how we are going to treat our employees? Then I would suggest shame on you. I would like to ask, Mr. Speaker, if I could, although it is not Question Period and I intend to ask the Premier this question, why would EMC even consider negotiating after this bill is passed? Why would they want to even consider negotiating?

The government is providing a big stick and it certainly isn't giving it to the front-line workers in this issue. It is a big stick, Mr. Speaker, and there is no fairness whatsoever with who shares the stick. The stick is obviously very clearly in the hands of EMC. The union, the employees, the workers, they have been downloaded, downgraded, put down and shouldered. They now will be at the mercy of both this government and EMC. Is that the way we treat our front-line health care workers? I would suggest that is not the intent of ordinary Nova Scotians, who those people claim to be, most of them, that is not the way ordinary Nova Scotians out there in communities across this province want those health care workers to be treated. They want them treated with dignity and they have earned this dignity. They don't want it to be robbed from them.

Through very difficult times, Mr. Speaker, the paramedics have always demonstrated fairness, superb professionalism but when the crunch comes down, what does the government do? The government has indicated very clearly that they do not intend to hold up their end of the stick, Mr. Speaker. In fact, they have taken that stick and passed it to EMC.

Mr. Speaker, just a short few months ago, in 41 nursing homes across this province, there were many difficulties in that system. It was the Liberal Government that provided the leadership, led by the former Premier and my Leader, I am very proud to say, Russell MacLellan, that was committed to a fair process, that saw a suitable resolve for everybody involved. I would suggest this was the direction that this government should have taken. It is called the fair process and that requires a lot of respect for ordinary Nova Scotians who provide many services across this province.

That process, Mr. Speaker, worked and I would suggest that this process would have worked in this instance if it had been given an opportunity. The Premier said back in March that all Nova Scotians want a strike avoided. The workers want a strike avoided. That is obvious. Even I can figure that one out. The workers do not want a strike. They made it very clear last week that they would not strike, that they would provide service with a contingency plan. They said that. They committed to that, I heard it. I am not sure how many over there heard it, but I certainly heard it.

The process has now come full circle, Mr. Speaker, and this situation is just as true today as it was in March, just the same. The only thing is now the shoe is on the other foot because of the actions of this government. Ordinary Nova Scotians and the paramedics do not want to strike. They do not want to see a strike. In fact, the paramedics I speak to, they do

[Page 885]

not want to strike because it goes against everything that they believe in and it goes against everything that they are trained for.

For these individuals, these hard-working men and women, Mr. Speaker, for all the things and all the contributions that they make to ordinary Nova Scotians, what did this government do? They pay them back by holding a stick over their heads and when they are through with the stick, they turn around and they pass it to the employer so they can get a few whacks at them too.

This government says thank you for your service, thank you for negotiating in good faith for 13 months; they are saying that. With one week to go, they don't have many capable hands anymore, so the government must interfere with the process. Of course, this is a process that you were committed to and believed in, but too bad, we can no longer follow the process.

Just a few short months ago those members, the majority of them, the minority members over there and many of the ministers that are sitting there and the Premier that is sitting there, when they were over here - remember that gentlemen? - they said, put money on the table. That is what they demanded of the government of the day, put the money on the table and give the paramedics what is required. I would suggest, do what you preach. Don't say what I don't, do what you say and put your money up and give the paramedics what they deserve and what they earned.

Mr. Speaker, clearly the employer is the winner and the loser is people like my child. I depend on these paramedics to provide an essential service in time of need when I can't be there. I am comfortable in saying that and very confident that that will happen. I have seen it with my eyes. As I hear other members around here, they have seen it, and I know you have seen it and you have seen it first-hand. Treat these people with the dignity and the respect that they deserve. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I must say that I did not think that I would be standing on this floor at 12:45 a.m. I thought that the government would at least, after about 12:00 midnight, decide to withdraw the bill and continue on with the collective bargaining process.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that it was during this summer, right after the election campaign, that the Premier said to Nova Scotians, don't worry, be happy, nothing is going to change, have a barbecue, go out and enjoy yourself. This government is a government that seeks consultation with people. It is going to talk to people up front. This government is going to do things differently in the Province of Nova Scotia. This government is going to listen to Nova Scotians.

[Page 886]

Mr. Speaker, we realize that this government was not in the business of listening to Nova Scotians. We listened and watched very quickly when this government had decided to pull the $2.2 million from the casino revenue to tap the individuals who could least afford it. We knew, Mr. Speaker, that this government was on a road to a different road than that which it had preached during the election campaign.

[12:45 a.m. (26/10/99)]

Mr. Speaker, they want me to come back to the bill and I am saying that this is an analogy of how they are treating the paramedics with respect to this bill. I want the honourable members opposite to know that if you can't stand the heat, you should be out of the kitchen.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that there is something unusual about the aura of this Legislative Assembly. I am sitting in the seat that used to be occupied by the now Minister of Economic Development. Directly across is a seat that is occupied by the elected Speaker of this Legislative Assembly. When they were on this side of the government, there was a completely different tune being sung. The tune that was being sung was this government had felt that it ought to be the be-all and the end-all to all Nova Scotians. As a matter of fact, I couldn't distinguish this Tory Government from the New Democratic Government which is sitting on this side of the table. I recall their People First campaign, and then their Nova Scotia Choices, Our Course, A New Direction, and this Conservative Party wanted to bring forward that particular kind of change.

Mr. Speaker, I, first-hand learned, and the residents of Dartmouth North learned, about the public consultation process, the fairness of government to act in the best interest of people by this government recognizing that it would place the jail and forensic hospital in Dartmouth North. This government cost the Nova Scotian taxpayers $1.2 million, and that is $1.2 million that could have gone to the paramedics as part of the salary that would have been a negotiating process.

Mr. Speaker, I just recently stood in Housing and Municipal Affairs and watched this very government cut out $700,000 to disabled individuals. This was an opportunity to allow individuals to have access to public facilities in which the ambulance operators and the ambulance services sometimes have to go to in order to pick up a patient and, because of that $700,000 restriction, now they have to carry the individuals down a number of steps rather than having the proper technical aid services in those particular buildings. So that is the point; if any honourable member thinks that I am striding off of this particular bill, I can assure you that there will be an analogy to everything that I say with respect to this.

[Page 887]

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that I have experienced, first-hand, the interference of the collective bargaining process. I want to tell you the interference in the collective bargaining process was a result of Bill No. 52. I don't know if anyone remembers Bill No. 52, but I believe it was called the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. If some of the members want to carry on conversations, maybe they want to leave the Chamber while the member for Dartmouth North is debating the bill.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 52, the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act was a definite interference in the collective bargaining process. Many Nova Scotians who were involved in the Public Service were the only individuals who were attacked by this bill. Those individuals, most of them had collective agreements already in place and this government decided - the Liberal Government, the former government - that it would roll back the wages that had already been negotiated through a collective bargaining process. This government took out of the pockets of those Nova Scotians money that was supposed to reduce the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. Remember, supposed to reduce the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. How much of a shock it was to me to recognize that after the newly elected Tory Government came into power, that in fact there was no reduction of the deficit or the debt, that in fact there is a $500 million deficit, that in fact there was some cooking of the books. (Interruptions)

Well, Mr. Speaker, we can only recognize what the Auditor General and what the government in power in the House says, but I will say to the government that is in power, that it has no right to continue to blame the previous government for its actions. The government now has the role by virtue of a July 27th election to carry on and administer the affairs of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, this government has shown Nova Scotia a new path. Many Nova Scotians at present are not particularly fond of that path. Many Nova Scotians in fact tell me that they don't know where the present Conservative Government got the right to administer and carry on the kind of programs it has been bringing forward when, in fact, its platform did not give that kind of statement to Nova Scotians during the election campaign. Think about the interference in the collective bargaining process. Think about what kind of impact that has on the negotiating process. Think about how demeaning, how demoralizing it is to go in to a collective bargaining process where you know your voice is not heard, where, in fact, the government has the right to appoint, select and dictate how the end product is going to be. By the end product I mean wages, benefits and all that comes with the process of collective bargaining.

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions, simply because of my disability, to need the services of paramedics. I can tell you the service is second to none. Every time it was required of me to have that service, they made sure they provided the best

[Page 888]

possible service to me. To that I must say that Nova Scotians are very much aware of the kind of professional service that those individuals provide.

It is extremely difficult to negotiate a collective agreement when the gun is to your head. There is absolutely no way. I have heard individuals speak about this bill, Bill No. 9, and they have spoken eloquently about the services that are provided by the emergency medical technicians. There is absolutely no question whatsoever that they provide an excellent service.

I went down the Eastern Shore on the weekend and I know the member for the Eastern Shore, who serves on the Progressive Conservative side, will not get up and speak about the emergency services, nor will the member for Guysborough, or the member for Dartmouth South who has a hospital in his constituency, which has a number of emergency vehicles and emergency technicians there on a daily basis, a number of them, who are bringing patients in every day and knowing full well the kind of services they provide.

Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable member for Dartmouth South criticized me for speaking about an issue that was in the Dartmouth North constituency, an issue with respect to the jail and forensic hospital. I think that member for Dartmouth South owes it to his constituents to speak about this particular bill. I think there is absolutely no question of the importance of having every member speak about a bill that infringes upon the process of collective bargaining.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to read a section from one of the people who praised the paramedics from Dartmouth, a senior, Joan Merrick, of Dartmouth. I want to quote her as to what she had said. She said, "From the moment I dialled 911, my problem was dealt with quickly and efficiently. Nova Scotians should be proud to be beneficiaries of such a service. I was proud, until I learned how much we are paying them for their excellent service. Would you believe $7 to $10 per hour?".

Now think about what we pay people, think about what we pay people in society. Think of what we pay an automobile mechanic to service our automobiles; think of what we pay an individual to collect our solid waste - garbage; think about what we pay plumbers; think about what we pay police and fire; think about the hours of service that paramedics offer to their community; and think of the tremendous amount of work that goes into becoming a paramedic.

Mr. Speaker, I have here some certificates that paramedics hold that some paramedics that I know have given me. Nova Scotia Firefighters School certificate, Nova Scotia Firefighters School certificate for extractions of vehicle, pre-hospital defibrillation which, in fact, requires them to have completed their prescribed training in pre-hospital defibrillation and is authorized to use this skilful understanding, and also the Province of Nova Scotia's Department of Health and Ambulance Operators Association of Nova Scotia. This is a certificate awarded to individuals who have met this prescribed requirement of an emergency

[Page 889]

medical assistant in accordance with the standards approved by the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health is very much aware. Here is a certificate from the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch of the United States as a matter of fact. One individual has gone as far as the United States.

Mr. Speaker, they have to have WHMIS training. WHMIS training is with respect to chemicals. There is a tremendous amount of hours, tremendous work involved in becoming a skilled professional paramedic.

AN HON. MEMBER: Probably at their own expense too.

MR. PYE: Much has been at their own expense but, Mr. Speaker, the most important thing is that we have to recognize the skill that is required for these individuals to become paramedics in the first place. Remember that we are talking about paramedics who have just been unionized under one union, who have been trying to negotiate a collective agreement for approximately 15 months, despite how they have been dealt with this by the previous government, the new government had an obligation to try and resolve this matter without bringing in legislation causing binding arbitration.

[1:00 a.m. (26/10/99)]

This government had the opportunity to recognize the importance of this particular level of health service. Mr. Speaker, you know yourself, from Springhill, often the ambulance service comes from Springhill to Halifax, from Yarmouth, from Sydney to Halifax. Many hours have been spent by these professional people on the road to deliver people to the health units that are required to look after them. Many of these people, in fact, probably would have died had it not been for a paramedic in that particular area.

Mr. Speaker, we can talk about the right to restrict collective bargaining. We can talk about its infringement, but all we have to do is recognize what happens when you have no collective bargaining process, when there is none whatsoever. When we go to Mexico and other countries where, in fact, the right to negotiate a collective agreement in some places is unheard of. We hope that developed nations allow people the right to trade the expertise of their service and to get the maximum amount.

I know that back some time ago, I had been involved in a negotiating process. I have to tell you that it was an eye-opener for me. I know and I hope that it is not the practice today, but when I was involved in the negotiating process and I was sitting on the employees' side of the table, the very first words that were uttered by the negotiating team of the employer was, our job is to give you nothing, your job is to get all you can. This is the bag money that we have and this is what you are going to get. Now you decide and divvy that up among yourselves and whatever classification levels you have. That is the bottom line.

[Page 890]

Mr. Speaker, that was the start of the negotiating process. That is the long, drawn-out process when, in fact, unions had already been established for a number of years. Remember that this is a new union, and 15 months is not a long time to bring in a new collective agreement. It is something that needs to be nurtured, it is something that recognizes that there has to be give and take. I have never seen union negotiators or employers who recognize that there needs to be the room for give and take in the collective bargaining process.

I can assure you that when I was speaking about the incident that had occurred - I remember it being over two years - it was two years and two months before we had actually reached that collective agreement. By the same token, no one left, no one decided to have their heads brought together by legislation, no one asked for an arbitrator to step forward. We recognized that this takes time, and it takes time to bring about good collective agreements.

We also recognized that when we go back to the situation of the Province of Nova Scotia, we know - if, in fact, we can believe this government, and I have no reason not to believe this government - of the financial situation this province now finds itself in. I want to recognize the government's right to bring back some semblance of control of the debt of this province. I recognize the importance, because it is important to all Nova Scotians, much like the ambulance service is important to all Nova Scotians, so is the right to address the debt issue. If we don't address the debt issue, then we don't have the money to deliver the services and programs that are required. All that is standard feature and we all recognize that.

We also recognize that what has been built up over a period of 15 to 20 years, by both by the Tory and Liberal Governments, we recognize that even though the Tory and Liberal Governments have created the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia, this Tory Government is fortunate enough to make amends for the mistakes that it has made in creating a portion of that debt from 1984 through to 1990.

Mr. Speaker, we also recognize the need to bring about sensible negotiations. The only way that sensible negotiations can take place is if, in fact, there is a level playing field; when I say a level playing field I mean a level playing field for both the union and the employer. When we tilt the scales to the advantage of one versus the other, then we don't have the balanced process of free collective bargaining. Remember that the Trade Union Act in Nova Scotia was, in fact, a hard fought Act. The Trade Union Act recognized the right of people to form a union. It recognized the right of people to be involved in a negotiating process. It recognized the right of individuals to assess their valued worth in a combined effort and to negotiate with the employer the value of that combined worth. It also allowed the employer the opportunity to evaluate and assess whether it was getting the dollar for its value. The union then convinced the employer that they were getting the dollar for its value, much the same as the paramedics in Nova Scotia.

[Page 891]

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that when I first came to this Legislative Assembly and I looked around and I saw the minds of individuals here and I listened to people speak, I had really felt that there was a great opportunity to bring about change. When I walked through that door, I decided that there was time for change and there was a need for it to be conciliatory and there was a need for compromise. We all did the best we could. As a matter of fact, our Leader and our Party said that we would take a more conciliatory approach to this government and we would recognize that this government has a mandate from Nova Scotians but a mandate to be conciliatory. This government recognized that although it had a majority, by 39 per cent of the voters who voted, that it had the right to carry on and administer the affairs of this province that it, too, would be conciliatory and that it would recognize the other political Parties and the right for those political Parties to have a say in the negotiating process.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that government hasn't forgotten that it still has that right to be conciliatory, to be involved in the process of sharing information. But what has happened in this bill is that the Minister of Labour invoked closure and now there is no possible way for the Opposition, who wanted to be conciliatory, to introduce amendments and recommend amendments on this floor, to sit back and discuss those amendments and to introduce excellent amendments, possibly, so that this government could, in fact, speed up the process and possibly even revoke Bill No. 9, so that it has the opportunity to negotiate and allow the collective bargaining process to take its path.

Mr. Speaker, I want to get back to some comments that were made by some paramedics. I want to mention their name as well in the message that they have given me. I want this because it is very important for the record. This is a significant bill. It impacts upon the way government is going to direct itself in future and we do know that there are going to be, possibly, requests from the NSGEU, which, in fact, are Public Service workers, with respect to the new budget that is going to come forward in the new year.

I just want to tell you about Brad. Brad is an individual and he says, "We were called one night for a cardiac arrest, which is a pretty typical call for us. We arrived on scene, headed up to the apartment, opened the door, and what we found wasn't a cardiac arrest. It was an elderly lady lying in her bed. As soon as we walked in, we knew it wasn't right, the lights were dim. My partner and I noticed blood on the walls, blood all over the place, and we're in the mind set of 'This is a cardiac arrest,' and that's what you're thinking when you go in here, but it's totally something different. She was hit in the head several times. Walking in, just the blood and the brain matter that was all over the room. It was one of the most gruesome things I've seen.".

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to speak to the principle of the bill, please.

[Page 892]

MR. PYE: Mr Speaker, this is the principle of the bill. I don't want to engage in debate with the Speaker of the House, nor should I, so I will retract that. I should say that Brad is a paramedic. Now, Brad is a paramedic and he . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will just remind the member that he is to be speaking to the principle of the bill, not experiences such as this. I would appreciate it if you would speak to those principles, please. Thank you.

MR. PYE: Absolutely. I just want to say that, Mr. Speaker, that, in fact, a murder suspect was supposedly outside the door when this all happened so it is so hard.

Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of experience that paramedics are paid $7.00 an hour to $10 an hour for. Imagine what your plumber gets paid, imagine what your auto mechanic gets paid and imagine what your paramedic gets paid to endure that kind of stress. Imagine what it takes after a process like that, to go and desensitize oneself, to bring oneself back. Can you imagine the individual having to go home to a family after being involved in such a situation?

Mr. Speaker, a paramedic needs a fair deal and what a fair deal is, is to remove this bill, allow them to go through the collective bargaining process and put more money on the table. The government has already taken the money, $2.2 million from the casinos, $1.2 million that is has already squandered on the jail and forensic hospital. Now, the money is there. They have taken it from the most disadvantaged individuals, people who need soup kitchens, people who need shelter. All that money is now hauled back because the government said there was no intent to spend it and that they were reviewing the programs. Well, if you are reviewing the programs and that money is not going to come forward until the next budget, then I think the right approach would be to put that money into the pot and hopefully give the paramedics an opportunity to have an increase in their salary.

One often wonders, Mr. Speaker, what it takes to be a visionary, what it takes to be different, what it takes to do things in a different way, what it takes not to be a part of the norm and introduce legislation that is easy - because you are the government in power - to introduce, but what it takes to be thoughtful, to think of new ideas, to think of new approaches, new ways. It is extremely difficult but the marks of good government are the marks of government that, in fact, take new approaches, are innovative to new ideas, innovative to individuals, innovative to recognizing that our population and its people have a right to a decent standard of living.

[1:15 a.m. (26/10/99)]

Mr. Speaker, the paramedics aren't the only individuals who have seen an erosion of their income. Many Nova Scotians have, as well. Many Nova Scotians have felt all the belt-tightening, I believe since 1993 and before, the Donnie Cameron era, when in fact wages were frozen, so let's say back to 1990-91. Many Nova Scotians had felt that they had made the

[Page 893]

supreme sacrifice to bring Nova Scotia back on track, that in fact the disadvantaged, the people who were being paid less would be the individuals who would benefit from this new approach and this new savings of dollars. In fact, we heard the former Liberal Government from time to time, former Liberal Government say we are on the right track. Thank you Nova Scotians for doing what you have done. Thank you for taking those wage restraints and you, in fact, have helped Nova Scotia out of debt.

Mr. Speaker, all I can say is that it is a sad commentary when a new government comes to power and Nova Scotians recognize that they are faced with a $500 billion deficit. That is money that will probably have to be funnelled over into the ongoing debt to bring the debt up to $10 billion. Think about it, $10 billion; $10,000 for every man, woman and child in the Province of Nova Scotia. Think about the impact that has. Think about how one can possibly repay that debt. You don't have the economic base in Nova Scotia - despite the Harris Government and its direction to this political Party - and you don't have the population base in Nova Scotia to address that economic disparity within a four year period.

There are some serious problems. The single most serious problem that we have before us right now is the paramedics and the right to a decent standard of living, the right to a collective bargaining process that, in fact, they fought for and won. A collective bargaining process which I don't think any honourable member opposite is going to even speak on, probably won't even have the opportunity.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that somehow when you slide to the other side of this Legislative Assembly, there seems to be a barrier, or something, that goes up. All of a sudden you get to be a big hero, you stick your chest out, say I am in charge, I am the boss and I am going to do what I think is right despite what impact that might have on individuals. I would say to you that when you throw caution to the wind, you are going to get something unsavoury back in your face, there is absolutely no question about that and we all recognize what that might be. As a matter of fact, it reminds me of when I got up here to speak the first time. Remember on the farm? Nonetheless, we won't go into that.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that when I look at the kind of job paramedics perform for Nova Scotians and Nova Scotian families and what they give up for Nova Scotians and Nova Scotian families, we have to recognize their role in our community. How many paramedics get the opportunity to spend quality time with their families, to take that family time and to just simply sit back and watch the life of a family grow? There is absolutely no opportunity if in fact a paramedic has to put in 60 hours to 90 hours a week to make a living on $7.00 an hour.

To think that we have embarrassed them into such a position whereby they find it extremely difficult and are fearful to really go out there and demand what their human worth is, so they continue on to deliver this level of service with the number of hours because they are afraid that if they do not bring back the dollars, then their family is going to suffer. These

[Page 894]

are individuals who do not want to be on the welfare roll. These are individuals who have staked out a position in their life. These are individuals who, in fact, have recognized the importance of their role within society.

Mr. Speaker, when I sat here and I sat here on this side, the Minister of Economic Development was here. The Minister of Economic Development who, in fact, when he was on this side of the floor, the minister talked about squandering taxpayers' dollars. He talked about an evaluation of companies that were going to use taxpayers' dollars and that government handouts were given to. He challenged the former Minister of Economic Development on money spent and he challenged the Minister of Economic Development that if his government were in power, they would do something different, but do you know what this Minister of Economic Development did? He gave to the Bank of Nova Scotia, $3 million. Last year that was a company that earned $1 billion. Not only was it a company, it was a Nova Scotia Chartered Bank, a bank which has the interest of Nova Scotia you would think first and the interest of making sure that Nova Scotians did not have to pay for training programs by that institution.

There was $3 million, Mr. Speaker, again that could have gone into the pot for the paramedics. Think about it. Think about $3 million, what $3 million could have done. I can tell you that the paramedics will not go on strike. They will not withdraw their services. They made a commitment to Nova Scotians and because they are highly professional individuals who care about their career and care about Nova Scotians and Nova Scotian families. They are the individuals who, in fact, would have recognized that they had to continue on with the delivery of service.

What happened here, Mr. Speaker, is the government presupposed that this union would withdraw its services from Nova Scotia and not provide an essential level of service. So the government jumped the gun and decided to intervene in the process by bringing in Bill No. 9.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to go back again to an individual by the name of Craig. Here is another paramedic and he writes, "The best day I have had so far in my career involved a two month old. She had choked on some food that she had spit up. The baby was very blue. I will never forget this colour. By performing CPR and respiratory assist, I managed to get this baby back to life. She did not have any pulse. She was not breathing on her own and I did manage to get the food out of her throat and clear her airways so that she was able to breathe again. I went in back of the ambulance with the little girl and pretty much carried on her care into the ambulance and to the hospital. When we got to the hospital, the baby was breathing on her own. She was screaming blue bloody murder which is a good thing for this little baby. After I handed the little one over to her doctor, I became very weak in the knees and I had to go outside because I felt like I was going to pass out. I was so overwhelmed by this call that I almost burst out crying. To be perfectly honest with you, a lot of times, I should not say a lot of times, but most of the times the general public do not see that.".

[Page 895]

Mr. Speaker, that is true of paramedics. The general public does not see the services, only when they need to call, and it is only when they need to call that they recognize the contribution that that service provides to them and that is a service that is provided to them by way of the taxpayers' dollars. That is a service that is taken out of the Minister of Health's budget and given to a private company to negotiate a collective agreement with paramedics. Mr. Speaker, we have to recognize that this paramedic that I have talked about most recently, and what this paramedic has said, this paramedic probably did not even get the opportunity to spend any time with his or her family, simply because of the number of hours that they were required to work in order to earn a decent living and bring home a salary.

Mr. Speaker, when you couple that with 650 paramedics across the Province of Nova Scotia, when you couple that with the responsibilities of 650 paramedics across Nova Scotia, you fully realize the kind of level of service and the kind of commitment that they have made to Nova Scotians, second to none. Now what we have done is we have decided to take their right away to negotiate a collective agreement.

Mr. Speaker, if you don't mind, I would like to go back to the Tory handbook, "Leadership . . . . a clear course". The Progressive Conservative Government, we all know this, and I am making an attempt to keep this book with me always, possibly for four years. The Minister of Health will know that every once in a while I will stick this book up to let the Minister of Health and his government know where they have gone wrong. I just want to go to Page 9 and see what they have said to Nova Scotians. Page 9, actually it was in recommendation five to Nova Scotians, that they would, "Conduct a thorough audit of cost and clinical outcomes of providing ground ambulance service in the province and seek advice to determine the government's legal obligations with respect to its contract with Emergency Medical Care. This is the first step in improving wages and benefits for Nova Scotia paramedics;".

Does that mean that this government, at one time, intended maybe to bring this into the public sector, maybe to look at the delivery of service because it was so important to Nova Scotians that, in fact, they would take it out of the hands of the private sector, that in fact it would recognize and bring it into the public sector and that this government would be accountable for the delivery of services to Nova Scotians as far as a paramedic or emergency medical technician services go? Is that what that message says? (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, yes, it would be very interesting to see what that message says. I would think that that is still on the government's list to review and I would think that the government will, in fact, review that and it might be possible that this will come under the hands of the public sector, although somehow I doubt it because this government has sent out some very clear signals to Nova Scotians in its Speech from the Throne. It said to Nova Scotians that you are going to become self-reliant because this government is going to make sure that Nova Scotians can stand on their own two feet. I applaud the government for making Nova Scotians self-reliant but I would hope that the government would give Nova

[Page 896]

Scotians the tools and the training and the money so that they do become self-reliant. That is just simply not rhetoric and it is not rhetoric to cast its budget so that it looks to Nova Scotians that they are doing something and they are doing something well.

[1:30 a.m. (26/10/99)]

Mr. Speaker, that is important because Nova Scotians are watching this government very closely. Nova Scotians are not only watching this government and how they deal with the paramedics but they are watching this government on how they are going to deal with future issues. I believe the Human Resources Minister is going to be very much brought to task on the kinds of services that Nova Scotians are going to see and the level of government services that Nova Scotians are going to have, because this government has indicated to Nova Scotians that nothing is going to be untouched. It has already sent a message out, I believe, to the unions, particularly the public sector unions. It has already sent that message out and maybe even had talks with some of the union members now to say, look, it will not be business as usual in Nova Scotia and that in fact you are going to have to recognize that. Maybe this is the early signal to the public sector unions out there that in fact this is how the government is going to deal with those particular issues.

Mr. Speaker, I had no satisfaction in standing up in this House to debate the merits of locating the jail and forensic hospital in Dartmouth North. Likewise, I have no satisfaction in standing up in this House to debate Bill No. 9 which is an infringement upon the basic fundamental rights of the collective bargaining process. That is a right that this government has taken for granted and has denied the right of the paramedics to withdraw their specialized services and to make sure that the value of what they sell to their employer and to Nova Scotians, get the bang for its buck.

I have to tell you that we stand here and I have watched this Legislative Assembly debate many bills, and we know that we will not, as a Party and as an Opposition, both Parties, win the concessions in every one of the legislative bills that come before this Legislature. But we do know that it is important for every one of us to stand here and debate bills that are an infringement on the basic fundamental rights of Nova Scotians.

I don't care if it is the workers' compensation Bill No. 90, that in fact denied the right for persons with prolonged injuries, chronic pain, and pulled them out of Bill No. 90, some 400-500 people. Our Party deliberated and negotiated that bill strenuously. We put forward recommendations and hopefully, the same thing would have happened here. When the Minister of Labour stands up and invokes closure that does not allow the Opposition Parties the opportunity to introduce legislative changes or amendments and to recognize that they can be debated here, then I think that that is a flaw in a democratic process that allows this whole Legislative Assembly to do its job.

[Page 897]

Often we don't get the opportunity to do the kind of job that we were actually elected for. Most of us go to our communities, most of us do advocacy work, but it is great to be able to sit in the Legislative Assembly and introduce legislation to be proactive, to be able to debate legislation and to make amendments to this bill. That is what the Legislative Assembly is for. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, you cannot make amendments to the bill in second reading, but you can suggest amendments. You can never make amendments as the Opposition. You can suggest to the government and hopefully the government will recognize and won't speed up the process of the Law Amendments Committee; that the government won't usurp its power and restrict the number of minutes an individual can speak before Law Amendments; that government will not deny certain individuals to speak before Law Amendments because it wants that bill to be passed at a specific period of time. I hope that the time-frame, the essence of the time, is not what this bill is all about, that in fact we recognize the right of individuals to make changes, make amendments, and to bring about constructive legislation.

We stand here in this Legislative Assembly and everyone from both sides of the Legislature has stated how much they support the work the paramedics do. We have all said, on all sides of this Legislature, the importance of having skilled paramedics in the Province of Nova Scotia. We have all said that we want to make sure they can continue to live in their province and not use this new term of out-migration, which means going down the road, that we continue to keep Nova Scotians here in Nova Scotia. The only way that we can continue to keep Nova Scotians in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, is by offering Nova Scotians decent wages. That is what we have to do.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Invest in Nova Scotians.

MR. PYE: Yes, as a matter of fact, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic said invest in Nova Scotians. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Economic Development had invested in Nova Scotians through the $3 million to the training program by the Bank of Nova Scotia. This Minister of Economic Development, since he is sitting next to his Minister of Health, should maybe touch the Minister of Health and try to have some of that rub off on the Minister of Health so he finds the additional dollars so that they can slide over to recognize the importance of paramedics and Nova Scotians. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, there are some unusual things that have happened in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians, in 1993, elected a doctor as Leader of their political Party by the name of Dr. John.

Again in 1999, they elected a Leader by the name of Dr. John.

[Page 898]

I would hope, Mr. Speaker, at least the new Premier, Dr. John, will recognize what the former Premier, Dr. John, had done to the Province of Nova Scotia. That this Premier, who has stood up on occasion and recognized that Nova Scotians have the right to be treated fairly - and this Premier has said it during the campaign trail - I hope, this Premier John will exercise that right, to see that Nova Scotians are treated fairly and Nova Scotians get a fair deal. I don't mean one class of Nova Scotians, I mean Nova Scotians all across the spectrum. All Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, if there is any member in this House who should recognize the importance of paramedics, I believe it is the Premier. The Premier, being a family doctor, being from the Town of Pictou, must have on a number of occasions treated patients who were brought in by paramedics. He must have recognized the kind of service that these individuals provide to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact, as a doctor, he is an important part of the team. He is a part of the team because it is with the paramedics and the doctors whom, in fact, are able to allow these people to carry on.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do doctors make $7.00 an hour?

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I don't think doctors in Nova Scotia make $7.00 an hour. Just think of the training the paramedics have to put themselves through. As I had indicated earlier, not only do they have to have training similar to a firefighter and they find themselves in situations where there are fires and so on, they find themselves in situations of automobile accidents and so on, much the same as firefighters do, they not only have their certificates of firefighters but they have their own professional certificates as well. As I had indicated, one individual went as far as the United States to take his training program so that he could come back here to Nova Scotia and provide Nova Scotians with a quality paramedic service, an emergency medical technician program.

AN HON. MEMBER: For $7.00 an hour.

MR. PYE: For $7.00, Mr. Speaker. Let's look at the top line of $10 an hour, $12 an hour, very few, and think of how many Nova Scotians can actually live on $7.00 or $12 an hour. Think about the average income of Nova Scotians. I believe the average income of Nova Scotians is somewhere around $26,000. Just think, the income that is earned by a paramedic, and that is a paramedic who puts 60 hours to 90 hours in a week, $20,000. Think of that. I can tell you that most Nova Scotians, I can tell you if you did a survey or did a poll of Nova Scotians, every Nova Scotian would tell you the value of a paramedic to them and the importance of having that emergency medical service to each and every Nova Scotian.

Mr. Speaker, it is important and I hope the government will, even before my time is up, or before the night is completed, withdraw Bill No. 9 and say that we are going back to the

[Page 899]

negotiating process and we are going to do the right thing. We are going to let collective bargaining take its own path and we are not going to interfere in the process. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, since I have been elected to this House, tonight this House of Assembly must be setting a new record. Never has this House of Assembly sat after midnight.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh yes, John Buchanan did.

MR. GAUDET: Since I have been elected, I said. Mr. Speaker, never would I have imagined standing in this House at 1:44 a.m., participating in a debate.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of all the members, to thank our guests who are sitting in the gallery, even this late. (Applause) I am very disappointed in this new Tory Government. The Minister of Health bringing this piece of legislation forward is preventing approximately 650 paramedics the right to strike. At the same time, this Tory Government is refusing to recognize this group of 650 paramedics as providing an essential service to the people of Nova Scotia.

[1:45 a.m. (26/10/99)]

Mr. Speaker, I have a hard time to understand why this group of employees is not recognized as health providers of an essential service in this province because with the introduction of this bill, the Minister of Health said in his opening comments that today on the second reading of this bill, the public has the right to this emergency service if someone is in need. So the Minister of Health is interested in protecting this essential service that paramedics provide to Nova Scotia for the safety of all.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that this Minister of Health will recognize this group of employees as health providers of an essential service to our province if this Tory Government wishes to take away their right to strike, as this piece of legislation clearly indicates. There is no need for the House to debate this bill. If the government declares and recognizes the paramedics as essential health providers, they should compensate them for it and we will continue with the business of this House.

Mr. Speaker, where is the fairness to the paramedics in this piece of legislation - Bill No. 9 - An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province. Last week during Question Period, questions were raised to the attention of the Minister of Health to see whether he, as minister, had met with EMC to discuss wages and whether this minister had seen the contingency plan in case of a strike. Ironically, the minister

[Page 900]

said that since this was an issue between the employees and the employer, he was not prepared to interfere in the process. Also, he did indicate to this House that there was a contingency plan.

So, today, Mr. Speaker, is the tabling of Bill No. 9, the contingency plan, I have to ask myself? The Minister of Health today in his opening comments said that the paramedics deserve a reasonable and fair contract. I agree with the Minister of Health but with this piece of legislation I do not see paramedics receiving a reasonable and fair contract. Negotiating a first collective agreement is never easy. To bring together a group of essential workers to negotiate a contract for wages, overtime, hours of work, pensions, vacation time, training requirements, and many other items will take time. These negotiations are part of the collective bargaining process, but with the tabling of this bill, this piece of legislation by this Tory Government will put an end to these negotiations.

The paramedics have negotiated in good faith up to this point in this bargaining process. Yes, maybe the paramedics are at a cross-roads in their negotiations, but I understand progress has been made in many areas, but paramedics are no different from any other public servant. Nova Scotians do not want to see paramedics strike and likewise paramedics do not want to strike. It goes against everything they believe in and are trained for.

I know, Mr. Speaker, the 15 paramedics working in Clare do not want the strike either. They only want to be treated fairly. They want to be able to continue to respond to the emergency needs in our communities. In Clare we have 15 paramedics, 13 of them are Level I and two are Level II. On the average a paramedic works between 55 hours and 60 hours per week.

AN HON. MEMBER: And some more.

MR. GAUDET: And some more, absolutely. They make between $7.00 and $9.00 an hour. They are always ready to respond to the call of duty. Their dedication to their job is way beyond what you could imagine. Last year, this special group of paramedics in Clare raised $10,000 to help non-profit organizations and charitable organizations at home. The dedication and the commitment of these individuals is setting a standard for others to follow. So far this year this same group of paramedics is again trying to set a new record with their fund-raising activities. So far this year, they have raised $10,300 and the year is not over yet. The support that this special group of paramedics is receiving at home is overwhelming and encouraged by the people of Clare.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate these individuals on behalf of the people of Clare for taking this initiative to support non-profit organizations and charities at home. (Applause) I know that this Tory Government doesn't support charitable organizations in Nova Scotia; they showed us that last week. They don't care about these

[Page 901]

groups, but paramedics do care. That is the difference between them and this government. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the level of service that the paramedics provide in Clare is without a doubt the best possible emergency service one can get. I am sure the standards apply to all parts of this province. I have heard so many good stories from individuals from Clare who were in need of help. These paramedics need to know that their dedication to their job doesn't go unnoticed by the many people throughout this province. We are very grateful for the service that they provide for all of us.

Now, when it comes time for this government to treat the workers with respect and to pay the hard-working women and men for all the things they do, they pay them back by holding a stick over their heads. This Tory Government brought Bill No. 9 forward last Friday, and now this government has to interfere in a process. With one week to go in negotiations, where negotiations have been going on for 13 months now - yes, negotiating in good faith for 13 months - this government had to interfere in a process. To me, that proves that this Tory Government has no trust for paramedics in Nova Scotia. A process that paramedics were committed to and believed in but, too bad, we can no longer follow this process. The government has now interfered with the process and throws the whole collective bargaining process out of balance.

The question is, who is going to win? From this piece of legislation that is before the House, after each party nominates a representative to the arbitration board, this government and this Minister of Labour will appoint the chair of this arbitration board, where normally each party would agree upon the selection of the chair of an arbitration board. Again, who is going to win? I believe the outcome of this arbitration board is known to all of us.

Why bother with this exercise? On top of this, the cost incurred by the Minister of Labour relating to the appointment of the chair of this arbitration board will be recovered by government, by asking the union to pay 50 per cent of the cost. Again, why bother with this exercise?

I see my time is coming close to an end, so I would ask to return to this debate on a future day and, with your permission, I will adjourn debate to a future day.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 902]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we will meet at the hour of 9:00 a.m. and we will sit until 12:00 midnight. The order of business will be the daily routine followed by Question Period, and then we will return to Bill No. 9 for second reading. Then we will move into the estimates of the Minister of Health. Following that we will do third reading on Bill No. 2 and if any time remains, we will do the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

AN HON. MEMBER: What are the hours for Thursday?

MR. RUSSELL: The hours for Thursday will depend on tomorrow. Mr. Speaker, I move we adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, would you inform the House as to what estimates will be conducted in the Subcommittee on Supply?

MR. RUSSELL: There will be no subcommittee, just the committee within the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, earlier there had been an agreement where the government had said that the hours on Thursday were going to be between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Has the government taken that off the table?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr Speaker, the commitment between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. is to enable members to take part in a charitable function, we will adhere to that and what I would suggest that we do by agreement on Thursday, depending on what the hours are, we would adjourn at about 11:45 a.m. and come back to reconvene about 2:15 p.m.

MR SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn until this morning at 9:00 a.m. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

We are adjourned until 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 1:57 a.m.]